County adopts emergency ordinance for M37 claims

Despite objections from some landowners, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted an emergency ordinance Wednesday that will help some with Measure 37 claims meet a tight state deadline.

Many of the 70 audience members at Wednesday's public hearing opposed the ordinance, which outlines steps landowners can pursue for proving to the county they're vested in their claims.

"I'm requesting you dump this ordinance," said Medford resident Calvin Martin, who represents several Measure 37 claimants.

But Medford resident Lisa Bock said she couldn't continue with her development plans unless the county passes the ordinance.

"Time is important," she said. "It appears the county has become a barrier in continuing on with this process."

When Measure 49 became law in December, the rights of those who'd received Measure 37 waivers were sharply limited.

Property owners &

many of them elderly &

with Measure 37 claims from both the state and the county started receiving letters from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development in January advising them that they had a 90-day deadline. They needed to choose from a fast-track option to build up to three homes, or a more difficult process to build up to 10 homes, or to prove they have made sufficient progress in the development to be considered legally vested.

The emergency ordinance, which takes effect immediately, outlines what steps property owners need to take to prove to Jackson County they're vested.

"They are on a deadline," said Commissioner C.W. Smith.

He said he doesn't like Measure 49 and what it did to Measure 37, but he said the county needs to follow state law.

"We don't live in the state of Jackson or the state of Jefferson," he said. "We live in the state of Oregon."

Measure 37, approved by voters in 2004, attempted to provide property owners who have owned their land for many years with relief from development restrictions imposed under Oregon's sweeping land-use laws of the 1970s.

After property owners filed about 7,000 state claims under Measure 37, voters approved Measure 49, overturning the property rights law. Jackson County had approved 571 waivers of land-use rules on about 60,000 acres.

So far, at least three lawsuits &

with more expected &

have been filed in Jackson County in which the property owners claim the waiver they received is a contract that can't be overturned by Measure 49. If successful, the property owners hope that the rights they received under Measure 37 would be restored.

Opponents of the ordinance fear it will be another step that closes a door on their rights from Measure 37. They say they already have vested rights because the county approved their Measure 37 waivers.

Medford resident David Smith, who is part of a local group called Citizens for Constitutional Fairness, said the county, by enacting the ordinance, is just following along with the governor and other officials who want to undermine property rights.

"You are being slickered by those fools up north," he said.

Smith vowed to continue fighting. "We're not null and void," he said.

Medford attorney Dan O'Connor said several of his Measure 37 clients were proceeding with a development, but said, "Now we're stuck."

He said the county needs to pass the ordinance to allow his clients to move forward with their plans.

Some property owners only filed a Measure 37 claim with Jackson County, but not with the state, which leaves them with few options under Measure 49.

Commissioner Smith said the county has always told people to file a separate claim with the state, saying he was troubled by recent statements to the contrary.

However, in 2005, the DLCD warned Jackson County that local residents would need to have state review of the claims, though it was unclear then whether they actually had to file a separate claim with the state in all cases.

Responding to the warning, Commissioner Jack Walker said the measure was created to give back local control of property rights to individual landowners and to stop decades of land-use laws that have stifled these rights.

"The LCD has no power in dictating anything with Measure 37," he said at the time.

The county did offer a disclaimer that a claim filed with the county "may also require" filing a claim with the state.

Walker, at the time, said, "We say that, but we don't demand it."

With so many difficulties that they've faced since Measure 37 became law, some of the residents expressed frustration at the process.

" the Lord God I want my rights," said Ashland resident Al Greg, who wants to develop 30 lots on his Highway 99 property.

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