Prineville to pay first M37 claim

Council votes to keep couple from building on top of rimrock

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: October 18. 2006 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – The Prineville City Council unanimously voted to compensate a resident for his Measure 37 claim at a special council meeting Tuesday night, marking the first time a municipality has paid a property owner rather than waive land use regulations under the measure.

The council set the loss of value to Grover Palin’s land at $47,660 and authorized the city manager to secure funds to pay him that amount. The payment was contingent upon Palin securing a waiver to build on the land from the state of Oregon, since the council said the land would be worth less if the state would not allow Palin to build.

The council members agreed that they do not think Prineville residents want to see homes built on top of the rimrock overlooking the city where they could be in view of the valley below.

“It was the overwhelming point that the public made to us time and time again, ‘We do not want to see homes on the rimrock,'” Councilor Chet Petersen said.

“Mr. Palin wants to build one up there, I would love to have one up there, too, but not at the expense of what the public wants.”

Councilor Brenda Comini agreed, saying she does not think this was what voters had in mind when they passed Measure 37 by an overwhelming margin in Crook County.

“In thinking about Measure 37 most folks were concerned about that and voted for it based on some different values and more often about the use of farmland and partitioning,” Comini said. “I don’t think this particular piece was ever in their thinking.”

Palin, 80, and his wife, Edith, 79, contended that if Prineville residents were so concerned about houses being built on the rimrock they would have turned out for the City Council meetings concerning the matter. No one from the public has spoken at any of the three public hearings held on the claim.

“They say they wanted to do what the people of Prineville want,” Edith Palin said. “How many people were here who opposed it?”

The Palins’ was the first Measure 37 claim filed in the city. Grover and Edith Palin, longtime Prineville residents, filed a claim wanting to build a house on 2 acres of their property on top of the rimrock surrounding the city.

Prineville and Crook County’s land use regulations require buildings to be set back 200 feet from the edge of the rimrock, the flat-topped cliffs that overlook Prineville.

Under the provisions of Measure 37, if a government agency finds that a property owner has a valid claim it can either suspend the land use regulations for the property in question or compensate the owner for the loss in value to the land.

City officials said earlier this week that the money will come either from the city’s general fund or from funding for the city of Prineville Railway.

The Palins hired an appraiser who set the value of developing the land at $195,000. At an earlier meeting the City Council decided to get another opinion on the value; the second appraisal put the value of the land at $60,000 and the loss of value for development rights at $47,660. The council decided to accept the value of $47,660 because the Palins’ appraisal did not include a range of value that would have a low of the value of the land without development rights and a high of the value with development rights. Petersen said Measure 37 required landowners to submit a range of value.

“That is in the record as the only complete appraisal that we have so I’m relying on that as the basis of fact,” Petersen said. “When we got that appraisal it says the value of the property is $195,000, now is the property worth $195,000 being able to build or not able to build? There’s no defining lower number.”

The Palins’ daughter, Kim Denfeld, called the decision “ludicrous.”

“I’m appalled that they would take an appraisal from a cute little old man who wasn’t on the right piece of property.”

The city’s appraiser, Steve Bucknum, did tell the council he may have been on the wrong piece of property when he did his appraisal. He report said the Palins’ property does not have views of the valley floor, which the Palins said was wrong.

Legally, decisions about Measure 37 claims do not set a precedent, so the council’s decision will not affect later claims filed in the city. However, Petersen said he thought that if the council had voted to waive the land use regulations it would have seen more requests to build on the rimrock because it would have showed a willingness to allow it.

The Palins have owned a 15-acre parcel of land near the Meadow Lakes Golf Course in Prineville since 1963. The regulations requiring a 200-foot setback on the rimrock were adopted in 1978. The property extends from Southwest Crestview Road in the Crestview area of Prineville up the grade and over the top of the rimrock. The 2-acre area on top would leave only a small triangular space for a building in accordance with the land use regulations.

Grover Palin told the council he is not sure if he will take the money or not. Petersen said he thinks the Palins can contest the amount awarded to them.

“We wanted to spend the rest of our years in Prineville but I think it’s quite possible that we’ve spent long enough in Prineville,” Grover Palin said. “It wasn’t the stupid money, I didn’t care about that. All I wanted to do is build a house up there.”

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