M37 clash with council resurfaces in Prineville

Couple has filed 2 claims on land

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: May 09. 2007 8:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – A Measure 37 claim that the Prineville City Council made a decision on in October reared its head again at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

The City Council held a public hearing on Grover and Edith Palin’s Measure 37 claim, which concerns 15 acres of land they have owned since 1963. This is the second claim the Palins have filed with the city; their first dealt solely with a 2-acre area of the same piece of land that sits on top of one of the rimrock cliffs above the city.

In October, the city was the first municipal government in the state to pay out a Measure 37 claim rather than waive land use regulations. When regulations enacted after a person has bought land reduces the land’s value, Measure 37 requires the government to either waive the restrictions or compensate the property owner for the loss of value to the land.

The Palins had said they wanted to build a home for themselves on top of the rimrock, but city and county regulations require a 200-foot setback from the rimrock edge, which would leave almost no room for development.

After the city decided to pay the Palins about $47,000 – significantly less than they claimed as the loss of value to the land – instead of allowing them to develop the land, the Palins filed a second claim dealing with the entire 15 acres.

But at the council meeting Tuesday night, Grover Palin clashed with several councilors and city staff over whether it was legally possible for him and his wife to re-file a claim on the 2 rimrock acres.

“The council made a decision on the original claim and that’s done,” Interim Planning Director Deborah McMahon said, adding that she is recommending that the council waive all land use regulations on the lower portion of the property. “The new claim, even though Mr. Palin wants it to include the top part, can’t include the top part because that’s done. He may not agree with that, but that’s the facts.”

Grover Palin said that he withdrew the first claim when he filed the second.

“You can’t deal just with the property below the rimrock because it’s all one piece of ground,” he said. “I filed with the state, I filed with the county and I filed with the city, so it’s all very legal.”

Mayor Mike Wendel said that the city made its decision before the Palins filed their second claim and said they wanted to withdraw the first on Nov. 28.

“So the first claim would look at the first one as already being taken care of,” he said. “Does Measure 37 allow you to file multiple claims on your piece of property?”

City Attorney Carl Dutli said that the measure is not clear enough to definitively answer the question, but he thinks that considering just the area of the property below the rimrock is a “legally defensibly position to take.”

“The problem is you’re dealing with an imperfect law that there really are no decisions that clarify what we can and can’t do,” Dutli said. “We’re the guinea pigs in this, unfortunately, as far as what’s going on around the state by agreeing to pay rather than waive the Measure 37 claim.”

Dutli added that the city is running up against a time constraint, as Measure 37 requires a government to make a decision within 180 days of a claim being filed. But he added that he and City Manager Robb Corbett have been negotiating with the Palins and their attorney to try to come to an agreement on the rimrock area of the property without going to court.

“The city manager and myself have been talking, trying to get this resolved, without going to attorneys,” Palin said. “I’m trying to work with the city because I’ve lived here for 58 years, but you can’t take my land – that’s what I fought for in World War II, and I’ll do it again if I have to.”

Dutli said he thinks an agreement with the Palins should take care of both Measure 37 claims.

The council closed the public hearing and will deliberate on the claim at its next meeting on May 22. McMahon said that the councilors can make a decision and specify in their findings that they are only considering the lower portion of the property, if that is their conclusion. Several councilors stated that they do not think they can and do not want to revisit the original decision.

Also at the meeting, the council unanimously decided to amend its system development charge ordinance so that developers will have to pay the fee when they apply for building permits, not before. McMahon said that right now some developers pay the fees earlier in order to avoid future increases.

“If we were instituting a new fee or increased SDCs, what we’re seeing is a huge amount of people who come in a prepay for their fees, and oftentimes they don’t develop for years,” she said. “We want that payment to be concurrent with development so that people are paying for the impact at the time they need the service.”

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