Dead golf course alive in courts

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

More than seven months after foreclosure laid the controversial Trinitas golf course in northwestern Calaveras County to rest, its woeful story lives on in courts from San Andreas to Fresno and San Francisco.

Michael Nemee, who began to build the course without required permits on 280 acres near Wallace more than a decade ago, and his wife Michelle, remain involved in various litigation as both plaintiffs and defendants despite losing the ill-fated property in April.

A 3-2 vote of the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors in May 2009 to reject an environmental review of the course and plans for more than a dozen homes surrounding it marked the beginning of the end for Trinitas. The county ordered golf to cease and desist soon afterward. A subsequent lawsuit filed in a federal bankruptcy court against the county by the Nemees was found in December 2011 for the county. The couple argued the course should have been permitted under the definition of "agritourism" in the county code.

A Calaveras County Superior Court judge is scheduled to hear arguments today in a separate suit filed on behalf of the former course's new owners.

Lance and Renee Dami, of Fresno, paid about $1.2 million for the Nemees' former home and 160 acres in May. The remaining 120 acres remained in the possession of Community Bank of San Joaquin and is tied up by various lienholders.

The Damis almost immediately filed a police report claiming theft and damage to the property and filed suit in August. The Damis claim the Nemees removed a $310,000 irrigation pump system and an estimated $100,000 in other "personal property collateral" on their way out the door. A tractor, generators, water tank, filtration system, well pump connector and computerized control panel are identified among the miscellaneous "collateral" in court documents.

Ken Foley, a San Andreas attorney representing the Nemees, has argued that the Aug. 28 discharge of his clients' Chapter 7 bankruptcy renders them "debtors who were to have a fresh start and be free from suits and harassment."

The Nemees have also appealed the agritourism decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, with opening briefs in that case to be completed by the end of this month.

The couple has also sued the county and former Planning Department officials, seeking $12 million in damages, claiming that they were denied their constitutional right to due process in the handling of the project. That case has been stayed by the U.S. District Court in Fresno pending the outcome of the agritourism appeal.

11887096
The Union Democrat
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