Crook County clarifies measure

Revision to M37 gives property owners two years to file claims

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: November 19. 2006 5:00AM PST

Nearly two years after Measure 37 went into effect, the Crook County Court is refining its ordinance for handling claims stemming from the property rights law.

The county took up its first major revision to the Measure 37 ordinance, to clarify the transferability of claims under the law, land ownership issues, methods allowed for determining property value and discrepancies between county and state policies.

Crook County Judge Scott Cooper said the new ordinance incorporates circuit court and state Supreme Court decisions, as well as two years of experience in handling Measure 37 claims.

County commissioners gave first-reading approval to the amended ordinance Nov. 8. The Court will consider the issue again Wednesday.

Last year, Crook County essentially sued itself in Crook County Circuit Court to determine whether Measure 37 rights could be sold or passed on along with a piece of land. In August, Judge George Neilson determined that Measure 37 rights can be transferred if the land has already been developed.

The County Court, which functions as the county’s commission, incorporated Neilson’s ruling into its revised ordinance. Under the revision, once a landowner has received a waiver of land use regulations under Measure 37 and made a substantial effort or investment into developing the land, the Measure 37 rights can be transferred.

“They’re all highly technical aspects of property law; (it’s) best to consult your attorney if you’re planning to file a claim under Measure 37,” Cooper said. “I don’t know that for most people that much was changed by the court’s decision because one of the things that we will receive as substantial effort is if you go out and you file a plat, subdivision or partitioning plat; then we will receive that.”

Measure 37 requires the government to compensate property owners or waive land use regulations if a new regulation decreases the value of land. Crook County passed its first ordinance dealing with Measure 37 in November 2004, the same month Oregon voters approved the ballot measure.

The revised ordinance also seeks to clarify issues, such as the timeline for claims, appraisal methods and public hearings.

Under the revised ordinance, property owners have a two-year window after their land use application has been rejected to file a claim, means other than a formal appraisal will be allowed for proving loss of value and public hearings officers will have greater flexibility for continuing hearings.

Cooper said the change that could become the most important deals with cases where the county waives regulations but the state refuses to do so. The ordinance now says the county will allow someone to build as long as he or she signs a statement saying the county is not responsible.

“We will go ahead and issue you your building permit if you indemnify the county against any repercussions from the state, so that if you end up getting in a legal battle with the state we don’t get dragged into the middle of it,” he said.

Cooper said the county allows a much broader definition of ownership than the state, one possible area of contention.

For example, if a business changes its corporate structure, the state may regard that as a change of ownership for land the company owns – possibly barring future Measure 37 claims – while the county does not.

“What we’re just trying to do is keep up with the ever-changing legal environment about how this thing is supposed to be interpreted, wishing at all times the (state) Legislature would step in and provide clarity,” he said.

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