By Roz Rogoff
Peaceful cemetery or urban development?Uploaded: May 5, 2011
Exactly six years ago, to this day, Dolores Fox Ciardelli wrote a story in the Danville Express about Sid Corrie's proposal to build a cemetery in Tassajara Valley. These plans were the result of a Tri-Valley Cemetery Committee that was formed in 2003 to study the issue of regional cemetery needs.
All five Tri-Valley cities hit pay dirt when Sid Corrie agreed to build a mega cemetery on his 200 acres in Tassajara Valley. Hardly anyone objected to this proposal, except Bill and Harriet Newman.
The Newman's property is at the southern end of Corrie's property. Their address is on Camino Tassajara, but their house is on the Western side of Tassajara Creek about a quarter mile from the road. It overlooks the valley where Corrie is planning the entrance from Camino Tassajara with a 32-foot-high main building containing administrative offices and the chapel.
I interviewed Sid Corrie about his plans last November. After I wrote my blog with his version of the cemetery, I offered to present the Newman's side of it. Bill Newman asked me to come over to his house this week to see where Sid Corrie is planning to grade a ridgeline and construct the main building.
Bill Newman picked me up at my house on Monday, because I was afraid I might get lost trying to find his place. The Newmans' house is very nice, but very remote. Not only is it about ¼ mile west of Camino Tassajara, it is almost at the top of a hill. Bill Newman told me, "Our house is located on the side of the hill, not at the top. We did this in order to preserve the ridgeline." So the Newmans' practice what they preach.
Corrie's property is about 60' or so below the Newmans' as shown in the photo with this blog. That explained why they didn't accept Sid Corrie's offer to plant trees between his property and theirs. It would take years and years for the trees to grow to a height to make any difference for them.
My original perception of the cemetery was like the small Church graveyards I've seen growing up back East, with a flat area of trees and graves. Corrie's cemetery will be much bigger, with 32' tall main building, a proposed fire station, a mausoleum, a lake, and roads circling the gardens and graves and a road along a ridgeline to the upper gardens. Corrie has been working on his plans for six years and recently received permission from Contra Costa County to prepare an Environmental Impact Report.
Harriet Newman says the tall building Corrie is planning and his plan to grade a ridgeline, makes the cemetery an urban development not consistent with the open, rural character of Tassajara Valley. I took some photos of the hills and ridgelines looking south to the Newmans' property and Bill Newman marked up what and where each element is.
Based on Corre's drawings, I agree with Mrs. Newman that the project would change the character of the property, but I'm not sure if that would make it "urban." That will be for Contra Costa County planners and Supervisors to determine. See my reply to this blog with a link to a drawing of Corrie's plans.
The Newmans are waiting for the Supervisors to hold Public Hearings on Corrie's EIR, so they can present their reasons why it should not be approved. The Newmans are also concerned about traffic from funeral processions coming there every day. This isn't likely to happen for a long time. It could be another five years before any funerals take place.
I like the Newmans. I like their house and their view and respect their wishes to keep Tassajara Valley undeveloped or at least rural. I don't consider the cemetery urban, but it isn't rural either. It may not be as urban as the original 4200 homes that Corrie planned for that property, but it is more urban than a riding rink and a few houses, which are what is there now.