Tiburon pledges $1M toward Martha Co. property purchase

Tiburon is committing $1 million toward the preservation of the 110-acre Martha Co. property on the peninsula.

The Town Council voted unanimously to approve the contribution at its meeting on Nov. 16. Advocates for the land deal solicited the town.

Jerry Riessen, president of the Tiburon Open Space Committee and a leader in the effort to preserve the site, told the council the acquisition is “a once in a lifetime opportunity in 2022.”

“I think your citizens are extremely interested in preserving that property,” he said.

The land is owned by a group of heirs of the John Reed family. Attempts to develop the site with homes have been thwarted in litigation.

The owners have granted the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit in San Francisco, a two-year option to purchase the property for $42.1 million. Marin County has agreed to cover half the cost by purchasing the property from the land trust for $26.1 million.

The county has approved $6 million in Measure A tax revenue for part of the cost. It also has $2.1 million left over from bond measures used to finance the purchase of the 122 acres that now make up Old St. Hilary’s Preserve.

The rest will come from Measure M, a ballot measure that passed resoundingly in the election this month. As of Wednesday, the measure had garnered 2,501 votes for passage, a majority of 78.57%.

The measure asked voters in a new tax district covering Belvedere and part of Tiburon to approve the issuance of $23 million in bonds. The measure carries an annual tax of $335, increasing 2% annually, until the bonds are repaid.

Part of the revenue it generates will be used to prepay the outstanding Old St. Hilary’s Preserve bonds. Property owners in those special tax districts pay two $98-a-year parcel taxes to repay those bonds.

Riessen said the remaining $16 million would take “some months” to accrue. He said there is a time limit of about 18 months before the purchase agreement sunsets, and he hopes to receive the contribution from the town by next year.

Councilmember Noah Griffin asked how Riessen reached the $1 million figure for the proposed contribution.

“I started with a higher amount and ended up with a lower amount,” Riessen said. “$16 million is obviously a challenge. I think your citizens look to you folks to help them achieve it.”

Mayor Jon Welner said the amount was “symbolic” to register the town’s support for the collective effort. He asked Town Attorney Benjamin Stock whether the funds could come from a pot of unused federal pandemic assistance from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Stock said the town is prohibited from applying the funds to an area outside of town boundaries that it would not be taking title to.

Welner signaled his support for the proposal and said it would protect the area from the danger of development it had faced in previous years.

“In my life I have not seen a more ambitious effort which has succeeded so fantastically,” Welner said.

Councilmember Holli Thier said, “The protection of this open space is not just for us, it’s for every generation to come.”

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