Despite years of Trinitas’ owners Mike and Michelle Nemee fighting to keep their golf course afloat, Trinitas will cease operation June 1, according to documents filed in federal court.
In a document filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Fresno, the Nemees’ attorney Ken Foley writes, “As of June 1, 2012, it is not expected there will be an operating golf course, but if there is, The Community Bank of San Joaquin will have to be the one operating it, since Appellants have resigned themselves to compensation of damages rather than completing the dream.”
However, in an ironic twist, it appears the bank, which now controls the 280-acre golf course after a foreclosure sale, will turn to the Nemees to maintain the course’s lawns.
“There’s been an agreement to hire Mr. Nemee to maintain it (Trinitas) for a period of time so it doesn’t just become pasture land,” Malcolm Gross, an attorney representing the Nemees in Wednesday’s hearing in U.S. Eastern District California Bankruptcy Court in Modesto, told the court.
Trinitas has been entangled in political and legal battles since 2009 after the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors twice ruled the course was unlawfully built on agricultural preserve without proper permits. County officials have refused to revisit the zoning ordinance that could have made the golf course legal.
The Nemees and their attorneys still insist golf should qualify as a legal form of agritourism under Calaveras County code. The Nemees lost a trial on the agritourism issue last year in Bankruptcy Court, and are now appealing that decision in Fresno’s U.S. Eastern District Court.
That appeal is not the only Trinitas-related litigation hanging in the balance. The Nemees have also filed a $12 million civil rights lawsuit against Calaveras County officials that allege the county violated their constitutional rights by prohibiting the Nemees from operating Trinitas.
The civil rights suit names former Calaveras County planner Shaelyn Strattan and former interim county community development director Brent Harrington.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Ronald Sargis threatened to throw out that lawsuit if the Nemees and their attorneys did not move forward with serving the defendants as of May 9. Foley has said the civil rights case needs to stay on the books to avoid the expiration of a statute of limitations should his clients prevail on the agritourism appeal. At court Wednesday, Judge Sargis said all defendants had been served – allowing the civil suit to go forward.
In the case of the civil rights lawsuit, it appears the county and Nemee camp has agreed to put the proceedings on hold until the agritourism appeal is resolved. Sacramento attorney Todd Baxter, who is representing county government and former county officials in the civil rights suit, said both sides are currently discussing a stipulation that would postpose the civil rights lawsuit.
Sargis also agreed Wednesday to allow the Nemees to convert their bankruptcy case from a Chapter 11, which is a reorganization plan that allows business owners to pay debts off to creditors, to a Chapter 7, which means the business ceases operations and the court oversees the liquidation to any of the course’s remaining assets. In Chapter 7 cases, the business generally sells all assets and distributes the proceeds to the creditors.