This is Episode 8 in the story of the formation, rise and fall of the little education collective that used to exist up here on our mountain. I wrote and posted this account three years ago on my blog and then pulled it off because someone whose name I had not changed, objected. Now I have changed both the name of the little school itself, and the names of everyone who might be negatively impacted, and plan to re-post the story, one episode per day, until all 32 are again on my blog.
When James W. Luther signed the statement of decision on January 11th, 1990, the legal part of the road access issue was decided. Having already detailed the series of events that led to the filing of the injunction in the first place by Imika, seeking to limit egress and ingress to the school, I think it is important to share the court’s decision, and how it was determined.
Among the documents that Imika had filed prior to the hearing of the road access case, to be used as evidence in the trial, were several that pertained to Bell Springs Educational Collective. Predictably, the first came from our good friends down at the Department of Planning and Building Services, Ukiah. In this document reference is made that, “...as of August 11th, 1989, no building permit, septic permit, administrative permit or use permit has been issued or applied for.” [by Bell Springs]
The document also stated that “...with regard to the present use of the property, I.E. Bell Springs Collective Community Center, our department has no record of this use being legally established and, in order for the use to be considered legally nonconforming, it would have to have been legally established...”
In addition to the letter from the Building Department, Imika had a missive from the Mendocino County Office of Education, asserting that there was no record of a Fall, 1988 Private School Affidavit on file for Bell Springs. She had also communicated with the California State Department of Education, requesting the same Private School Affidavit, and had received the same response: there was no record of Bell Springs.
The term “red tagged” gained prominence during this time period, when Imika raised questions about paperwork tied into building permits. She used the system to her advantage at all times. If she could gain leverage by threatening to turn us in to the building department, she did it every time. Annie and I went through the same thing as everyone else, and did all of the necessary paperwork and upgrades in the summer of 1991 to our own residence.
The reason the court never looked at any of Imika’a documentation is simply that she had delayed initiating the whole legal process until after it was too late to do anything about it. The court meticulously noted the changes in the use of Joe’s land from 1977, by which time Imika had acquired her parcel and begun planning her house, up until the present.
The court noted that in 1977, there was a preschool in a trailer, and that people came occasionally to do group meditation, with there never being more than a dozen at a time. Imika built her house in 1978, the corner of her residence twenty-five feet from the road.
By 1982 Joe was operating Bell Springs Education Collective out of a trailer on his property, and in the fall began construction of a one room school without benefit of a building permit. The court noted that the current zoning laws require a use permit to operate a small school, but it was not established at trial whether this was a requirement in 1982.
During this time period road use continued to increase. During construction traffic continued to increase as students continued to come to the school. Classes were held three days a week in a trailer while the school was being built. The court noted that the easement past Imika’s house was the only road to the school, and remained so at the time of the trial.
In 1985 Imika complained to Joe about the traffic, the noise and the dust. Joe explained about the easement but in 1987, Imika told Joe he had until the end of 1988 to limit the school’s use of the road to her satisfaction, or she would go to court. If she were going to contest the use of the road, she would have to have done so immediately, when traffic started to increase in 1982. However, at that time, Imika still saw the school as a beneficial thing; after all, she participated in it, and was seemingly devastated when Misha was removed from the collective.
Judge Luther rendered his decision by saying, “I am persuaded that defendant’s [Joe] present use of the road to serve his rural school is a normal and reasonable use of his granted easement and within the normal contemplation of a person in plaintiff’s position at the time she acquired her land in 1975. The present zoning authorizes a small school on defendant’s property. Although defendant has not applied for the required building permit, there was no evidence showing that any enforcement action has been taken against him or that he would not be issued a permit upon proper application. There is no evidence that the activity on the road going by plaintiff’s house is different in kind than it was before the school was built. I find that any increase in use is reasonable and does not greatly increase the burden on plaintiff’s property.”
Imika filed the road access injunction against Joe in February, 1989. She filed the restraining order against me in March. For about three months things plodded along, with us walking to and from the school via the newly-constructed path. It took the announcement that I was going to assume the contract teacher’s responsibilities in the fall, to get the fire under the kettle all torched up again.
The only available institution back in the pre-internet days, for one to obtain a teaching credential in Mendocino County, was at Dominican College’s Off-Campus Program in Ukiah, and so I subsequently applied.
I had to go to an interview which was conducted by three people, among them Susan Rounds, the Director of the Credentialing Program. I felt as though the interview had gone really well, and was expecting some sort of written verification of that fact, when I was notified that a letter had been received by Dominican’s Off-Campus program, mailed by a disgruntled individual named Corrine Rose Chintz, and could I please contact Susan Rounds, at my earliest convenience?