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Bill Moores, Again

When my father retired to Irish Beach in the mid-80s after a 40 year career in the dairy industry, he naively assumed he could live out the rest of his life in modest comfort with my mother in Irish Beach, a modest created community lying between Elk and Manchester on the Mendocino Coast, not far from where my father was born. My mother picked the house in Irish Beach because she liked the dramatic view of the coastline south to the Point Arena lighthouse.

It wasn’t long before my father was recruited onto the Irish Beach Water District board. Soon after that, at the age of 82, he became the oldest man in California history to obtain a Water Treatment Operator II license after six months of classes and stringent tests based on his knowledge of plumbing and public health. With that license he volunteered as a back-up plant operator for more than ten years.

My father had not bargained for the litigious Irish Beach developer Bill Moores, who sued the Water District Board numerous times during my father's tenure. Moores lost all of his lawsuits because they were petty and mostly a form of intimidation and harassment without a real basis in the law. 

The wealthy Moores kept several lawyers on speed dial, the net effect of which caused the Water District tens of thousands of ratepayer dollars defending themselves. 

Moores owns several hundred vacant lots in the 500-some-odd-parcel Irish Beach development and many of the partially built lots and a couple of completed homes, all of which benefited substantially from not only the installation of the water system but the provision and administration of safe drinking water, which made Moores’ parcels marketable in the first place.

My father and the other elderly water board members received many highly detailed hand-scrawled complaints from Moores during the approximate eight years my father was on the board, each one carrying the implied threat of a lawsuit if Moores didn’t get what he wanted. The complaints caused much consternation on the board and made it hard to recruit new members from an already small pool of candidates, not to mention the physical and psychological toll that the constant complaints and lawsuits took on my father and his elderly colleagues, all of whom were volunteers. At one point, my father, who took his Board role very seriously, was losing so much sleep worrying about and dealing with Moores’ constant griping, that my mother tried to convince him to resign from the Board before it killed him.

Last I heard about the Irish Beach water board in the early 2000s, Moores had succeeded in packing the board with friends and relatives; the majority of Irish Beach residents, while unhappy about Moores’ coup, at least thought that the days of petty, and often bitter, disputes were behind them.

My only personal contact with Moores since my father died was his occasional visits to the Irish Beach house to tell us that he thought a few trees ought to be trimmed, even though all the neighbors liked the trees and the only view that they (partially) obstructed was from a vacant lot a couple of houses up from my parents’ old house. I'm pleased not to have had to see him since.

According to the Mendocino County Superior Court Case Index, Moores began filing suits against the Irish Beach Water District Board as early as 1987. In 1997, Moores and his wife Tona even sued Moores’ brother Gordon who manages the development on-site. (Moores lives in Healdsburg.)

Since 1990 Moores and his wife Tona have filed well over 40 civil lawsuits, most of them against the Irish Beach Water District, and Moores himself has been the defendant in about 20 additional lawsuits, a few of those criminal cases.

In at least two instances we know of Moores has been cited by Mendo’s Coast Planning Department office for unpermitted activities, and in one case he plead guilty to cutting down trees on a neighbor's property without bothering to ask or even notify the neighbors.

Back in 2011 Moores and his wife finally hit the jackpot with a judgment against the Water District that serves their development for over $1.5 million, a big chunk of which went to Moores’ attorney in Ukiah, Duncan James.

Besides the obvious fact that a small water district like Irish Beach probably couldn’t pay anything like $1.5 million to anyone, it is particularly galling to read that the water district somehow violated Moores’ property rights, conducted an "inverse condemnation" and "trespassed" during the course of their legitimate water admin duties. (Ironically, Moores himself was convicted of trespassing in the case where he cut down the neighbor’s trees.) 

Moores’ attorney at the time said that "the District took the position that it had the right to do whatever it pleases and take whatever it wished from the Moores for free."

That kind of silly and untrue rhetoric is typical of Moores and pretty much sums up Moores’ attitude in one simple sentence. 

This is not to say that the water district and its board was entirely in the right, and may indeed have made mistakes in billing, accounting, and/or record keeping, especially concerning water system project development or expansion. But it's hard to believe that Moores, a wealthy former Ukiah timber merchant and realtor, could be so egregiously wronged to the extent his lawyer’s gleeful press release boasted about it in 2011. 

As if small water districts don't have enough problems with numerous regulations, not to mention recurring droughts, to deal with.

We sold our Irish Beach house a few years ago and got away from Moores and his lawsuits. But every few years Moores finds a new way to throw his weight around and ignore the wishes of the property owners at Irish Beach who paid him quite nicely for their individual homes and parcels.

Last month, Moores submitted a huge permit application which was so scattered, so larded with bureaucratese, and which included so many unrelated zoning and planning changes that we gave up trying to figure out what he wanted. (If you’re interested there’s plenty of material at the County’s website, but be warned, finding anything there is not easy.) According to Stephen Whittaker, an elderly Irish Beach resident who seems to be organizing the opposition to Moores’ latest proposal, just about everyone in Irish Beach who had an opinion on Moores application was against it. So was the County’s Planning staff, which recommended disapproval while observing that Moores could still log several large forestland parcels which surround the housing development for commercial gain without rezoning them to TPZ. 

But, again according to Whittaker because we are unable to decode the Planning Commission’s nearly equally complicated ruling, the Planning Commission reversed at least some of the Planning staff’s denials last month (maybe all of them, we simply can’t tell what the Planning Commission decided), further annoying the rest of Irish Beach who are convinced that the logging proposed for surrounding parcels will endanger their water supply and reduce their property values.

There was a mini-outcry when the Irish Beach people heard that their appeal of the Planning Commission ruling was going to be heard by the current Board of Supervisors with a lame duck Georgeanne Croskey and the unaccountable and unaccounted for Dan Hamburg in whose district the Irish Beach development sits. The Irish Beach people also complained that Hamburg’s Planning Commissioner, Boonville resident Steve Hall, originally appointed by David Colfax, was somehow in the pocket of Moores (which we doubt) or at least wasn’t paying attention to the Planning staff or Irish Beach residents.

Anyway, this has all just recenty been postponed to next year when the new Board will hear it. Irish Beach residents have been talking about renting a bus or two so that as many as possible of them can attend that hearing to complain. The Moores affair could be an interesting baptism for newly-elected Supervisors Ted Williams and John Haschak. It will also be interesting to see if Williams finds a new Planning Commissioner to replace Steve Hall, not that Hall has aroused any wider antipathy. There haven't been any recent controversies with Planning decisions appealed to the Supervisors.

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PS. On Saturday Mr. Whitaker distributed the below note of background information for the upcoming Supes hearing on Moores’ permit application. (We have not attached the map or “strategic fire plan” referred to because the map doesn’t mean much to non-residents of Irish Beach and the plan is nothing but a cover page.) But Whitaker’s does indicate part of the argument against Moores’ application and a hope that Supervisor Elect Williams (and Albion Little-River Fire Chief) will pay attention to the forestry/fire protection issue.

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Irish Beach Community Members,

Attached is an interesting view of the Irish Beach area in which you can see ranch & farm land to the north & south and ocean to the west. In addition, there is an imaginary vertical dividing line that extends north and south and lies just above the "el" in Google. To the east of this line is timber production land (TPZ) and you can conclude (especially upon a closer view that is available on the web ) that the trees have been harvested in this area. To the west of this line is a buffer zoneof timber that is currently designated as forest land (FL) or range land (RL). One can surmise (especially upon closer view) that the trees have not been harvested in this area. This buffer zone has an attractive esthetic characteristic for the home owners in Irish Beach; however, it is a zone that needs thoughtful forest management. Some comments about "thoughtful forest management" are contained in the forty-page document entitled: "2018 Strategic Fire Plan for California" that is available on the web. The first page of this document is attached as a reference. 

Cities and towns in California have the means for dealing with buffer zones that are necessary to defend against fire. A community such as Irish Beach can only appeal to the County of Mendocino or the State of California. If we are lucky, the Board of Supervisors or our legislators will take an interest in communities such as ours and a county-wide or state-wide plan may be developed. Please gather your thoughts on this problem and be prepared to express them at the BOS meeting in Ukiah on January 8, 2019. Our new representative, Ted Williams, will be on the Board at that meeting.

— Stephen Whitaker

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