L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 64, January 31, 2000
Stupor Bowel Hangover
Business As Usual In Moreno Valley, California
by Larry Baird
Special to TLE
When I came to Moreno Valley back in 1988, I had planned on retiring
from politics after over thirty years of active involvement. I didn't
even subscribe to a newspaper. I bought twenty acres of agricultural
land with the dream of putting up a building that looked like a barn
in which to operate my small mail order business, thus eliminating
the daily commute and slowing down. This seemed like a reasonable
concept, putting a barn on agricultural land and eliminating the
grind of driving to work daily. It seemed like it would be a win for
everyone; the people in my area would get cleaner air, the government
would get increased taxes from both the increase in my property
value, plus the city's percentage of taxable sales.
My first clue that it wouldn't be so easy was when described what I
wanted to an old friend in the building business. He told me "I can
build the structure, but you have to get the permits". I had hired
contractors in the past and they had always acquired any required
permits. What could be so difficult about getting a permit to build a
barn on agricultural property? I would soon find out.
Having no experience getting building permits, I asked my old friend
Larry Thompson to go with me to city hall. Larry had been with the
Los Angeles County Engineering department for thirty years, and his
last years were spent as a building inspector for the cities of
Bellflower and Lakewood, under contract from the county.
When we arrived at city hall, and finally were able to talk with a
human, it was explained to us that we couldn't build anything other
than a fifteen hundred square foot "granny residence" and I was
provided with the required paperwork (about a half ream of paper). In
addition to filling out these hundreds of forms, I would have to get
one of the approved inspectors (read brother-in-law) to do a Stephens
Kangaroo Rat study on my property, for thousands of dollars. We left
the building department with my head spinning in disbelief. All this
for a barn? To add insult to injury, my friend, Larry Thompson
commented as we were returning to my car, "Those people are lying to
you". After the experience of dealing with the Moreno Valley building
department, this came as no surprise, and I asked him to explain.
"They want you to conform to a zoning law that doesn't exist". "Your
property is agricultural, and they are trying to get you to conform
to a zoning law that is only proposed, making your property 'Hillside
At this point I decided that if the representatives of Moreno Valley
would lie to me about this, that they would have no compunction lying
about other things, and abandoned the project. I later found out that
I was right. I didn't need a K-rat inspection either.
A few years later, I was visiting with a former city councilman, to
whom I related this story, and he asked "Your property was a horse
ranch wasn't it?". I acknowledged that it was, and he explained that
Stephens kangaroo rats would go no where near horses nor horse
With these kinds of problems in the city of my residence, I had no
choice but to once again become politically active. Since 1990, I
have been involved in every city council race, volunteering time and
donating money, in hopes of solving some of the problems that
dispatched my dream of working at home. I had hoped by electing
better candidates for office that I would eventually be able to build
my barn and eliminate the daily commute. To this point, I have been
unsuccessful. I've told my story to members of the city council with
all the effect of communicating them to a brick wall. I've asked to
be rezoned, and have even gone so far as to ask that my property be
excluded from the city, with no effect.
I may never be successful in fulfilling my dream, but that doesn't
mean I'm going to give up. I would much rather spend my money and
time building my barn than putting it into campaign treasuries.
Unfortunately, the City of Moreno Valley and it's leaders leave me no
choice, and I look forward to campaigning this year for a new council
majority that has not been struck deaf with power.
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