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November 22, 2011 > Letter to the editor: Community values and character at stake

Letter to the editor: Community values and character at stake

Fremont is at a major crossroads. What's at stake is our community values and character. The Kimber Park neighborhood has a unique, rural, and open feel. Its planned design, emphasizing openness and nature, has been a major draw for the 339 families that live here. The private, Tahoe-like recreational facility surrounded by acres of open space has been attractive to Bay Area people for decades.

However, more is at stake than just the character of one neighborhood. Also at issue is the character of our entire city and our local elected officials. After 38 years, the 12.7 acre open space and tennis/swim/fitness facility is at risk. The current owner, Sheena Chang and her Fremont Mission Hills LLC investors are seeking approval to move forward with a development plan for building houses in the open space and most of the club area. It is no secret that Ms. Chang was aware of the "restrictions on the use" of the property, as it is zoned as private open space with recreational purposes in the original Kimber Development Plan.

Ms. Chang purchased the land/club for $6.2M, which was significantly more than the estimated value. Nothing substantiated this price premium given the lack of development rights. Now, seven years later the no development issue is costing the community, club members, Tompkins Tennis students, city staff, planning commission and city council members countless hours of time and expense that could be put to more productive use.

Our elected officials need to send a message that our communities and the people and voices within those communities are what make Fremont special and we are heard. I am hopeful that our elected officials will have the moral character to stand up for our community and say enough is enough. Do our city leaders have the backbone to say, "We are sorry you overpaid and made a poor business decision, but there is no community support for any residential development on this property. We will not bail you out by rezoning it." I hope so!

We need city leaders who are willing to say the hard truth to developers. I know it may be difficult, especially to affluent, influential property/business owners who are also involved in city politics and chair city advisory commissions. But if we don't have city leaders who can stand up for our community's best interests, I fear the entire character of Fremont is at risk. This issue is not just about Kimber Park, it determines if our leaders are willing to honor agreements and arrangements of the past and not succumb to special interests.

Our community is tired of fighting what should be a non-issue. We have remained civil, rational and respectful during informational, planning commission and city council meetings. Our resolve has been tested over and over again. We have been threatened by developers claiming they have deep legal pockets and are prepared to outlast and outspend us. On November 1st, the club was abruptly closed indefinitely for "remodeling". On November 8th, an unsightly and unnecessary fence was erected around the entire 12.7 acre site; 6/10 of a mile of wire.

We petition our city council members to show that they value the wishes of the community and honor the agreements of the past, by supporting the Updated General Plan as the city staff has presented it and the Planning Commission in a 5-1 vote approved. The Plan aligns the Kimber Park parcel, as private open space, with current zoning that has been in effect for 35 years.

Our General Plan shows what we want for the future vision of Fremont. It's about keeping character in our communities and having the strong moral resolve to do the right thing. City Leaders - please make the right choice!

Laird Matthews

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