On March 22nd, the Corte Madera Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend tearing down the existing Corte Madera Inn and destroying the existing pond and wildlife refuge area. If their recommendation is approved by the Town Council, the site will be paved over and replaced by a massive 170 room Marriott Residence Inn and Springhill Suites hotel complex.
This was in spite of the fact that speakers and comment letters by those opposing such a large and impactful project (including CVP's comment letters) outnumbered letters and comments of support.
At the hearing, advocates for the hotel deal waxed "eloquent" about how much money it would make for the town, and how the pond and wildlife area were just a waste of space.
Toward that end, hotel supporters swayed the impressionable Commissioners with unscientific rationalizations, arguing that Corte Madera had "lots of wetlands" so we didn't need this one. And one particularly petulant speaker told the Commission that the pond "should be removed," and declared it "a cesspool, which is what it is, if you've been there lately." That speaker claimed to have been there "just the other day," and attested to its deplorable condition.
So I decided that I had to go and see this disastrous situation, first hand. Below are the photos I took of the "cesspool," two days after the hearing.
Well, I won't claim to be an expert on wetlands, but this sure looks to me like vibrant and thriving habitat for wildlife. It was a serene, lush oasis that completely took me by surprise, considering what I was expecting to find (you know, a mud hole filled with old tires and abandoned Safeway shopping carts).
In the Staff Report, which pretty much gave a reader the same impression as the speakers above, it also complained that the pond was hopelessly choked with algae, and offered it as another reason to fill it in. Well, okay, there were some algae in the pond, at one end, along with lots of other vegetation. But it made me wonder if this was really so unusual.
So I drove over to Bayfront Park in Mill Valley (a dedicated and protected wetlands area), on my way home, and I discovered that all our wetlands areas have a lot of algae in them this time of year, even ones such as Bayfront, which gets flushed out with every high tide.
Here is what the wetlands in Mill Valley look like. They have even more algae than the pond at the Inn.
Oh, and one final point. One particularly passionate speaker in support of the new hotel design argued that the proximity to the freeway was another reason to get rid of the pond, suggesting this meant it was of no value to wildlife.
I found it interesting that even though the wetlands in Mill Valley are right up against the road, it doesn't seem to bother the wildlife one bit.