Crook County alters M37 rule

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: April 08. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – As a legislative committee in Salem holds discussions on Measure 37, Crook County is continuing to fine-tune its ordinance dealing with the property-rights initiative.

The Crook County Court passed two revisions to the measure recently, reconciling discrepancies between the state’s and the county’s application of the measure.

The main change is that property owners who want to develop their land under a Measure 37 claim will now be required to obtain both county and state waivers before proceeding. Before, the county could approve claims even if the state had not yet waived the land use laws on the property.

Measure 37 watchers have said in the past that even if a city or county waives local land use laws for a claim, state laws may still apply. Some have recommended that property owners file claims both locally and at the state level.

A second revision says that the county will notify the state Department of Land Conservation and Development of all claims filed in Crook County.

Measure 37, passed by voters in 2004, says that, if land use laws enacted after a person bought property reduce its value, the government must either waive the regulations or compensate the property owner.

“I think from a practical standpoint it really didn’t make much difference, because I think few, if any, would actually go ahead and take some course of action based on the county having approval and not having state approval,” County Commissioner Lynn Lundquist said of the recent changes.

This was not the first time the County Court has revisited its Measure 37 ordinance for clarification since the ballot measure passed in 2004. Officials in the past have looked at the question of transferability of Measure 37 waivers, saying that a landowner must make a substantial investment into a piece of property before it can be sold with Measure 37 rights attached.

Crook County also essentially sued itself in Crook County Circuit Court to get a ruling on the transferability issue.

The circuit court judge ruled that the measure doesn’t allow owners to transfer their rights until they develop the land, but he didn’t make clear how much owners would need to develop.

Lundquist said he expects that the county will continue having to make revisions to its ordinance as new questions arise and as the Legislature considers the measure. Crook County Court Judge Scott Cooper has said in the past that the best solution would be for the Legislature to pass a bill clarifying it.

“If in fact something comes out of Salem, we would have to go back and revise our regulations and our process,” said Lundquist, who represented Central and Eastern Oregon in Salem between 1995 and 2000. “I think they should be working on some changes to Measure 37 because there’s been gray areas.”

That is now a possibility, as a group of state legislators has proposed a compromise that would limit the number of houses a Measure 37 claimant could build. But the proposal is still being worked out and would also have to clear both chambers in the Legislature.

Despite the large subdivisions that have been proposed in Measure 37 claims across the state, Lundquist said he does not think Crook County residents have fundamentally changed their minds about the law.

“The very large claims that were put in late in the process … have had an impact on people’s opinion about 37, because I think probably most people didn’t believe that was part of what they voted on,” he said. “(But) when you get down to the core issue, I’m not sure much has changed.”

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