By JANET COOK
News staff writer
November 1, 2006
The Hood River Valley Residents Committee has filed appeals to the state in recent weeks regarding three Measure 37 decisions in the Hood River Valley, and has filed motions in court to review several other claims with the possibility of appeal.
“The situation is that Measure 37 is the law,” said Scott Franke, president of HRVRC. “We understand that, we’re not fighting the law. What we’re asking that the state do more accurately is to evaluate these claims fairly and grant compensation commensurate with the loss, or if they’re going to waive enforcements, then to do it proportionately to the amount of monetary loss.”
Measure 37 requires the government to compensate landowners for any loss in property value resulting from a land use regulation enacted after the owner’s acquisition of the property.
“If we do a more reasonable job of this, we’d go back and establish what the monetary loss would have been in 1974 when these laws went into effect,” Franke said. (In 1974, the state legislature passed a sweeping land use bill aimed at protecting rural farm and forest lands statewide.)
“We should really look at this in a traditional takings context,” Franke said. “We look at the amount of loss then, and use some reasonable economic index to bring it up to date. So, if in 1974 you could have gotten $20,000 more for dividing your land into 20 lots, bring it forward to now and maybe it’s $200,000.”
As of Oct. 30, there were 135 Measure 37 claims totaling 5,446 acres in Hood River County. Nearly all the claims are on Exclusive Farm Use-zoned land, according to Mike Benedict, Hood River County planning director. Claimants have estimated development of this land to be worth more than $650 million.
“It’s primarily about fairness,” Franke said. “What goes on now is that someone who acquired land in 1990 has zero rights.”
Larry and Sara Martin, of Dee, have joined the HRVRC in appealing a Measure 37 claim filed by a neighbor. The Martins own and operate 60 acres of pear and apple orchards on Dee Flat, which they acquired in 1994.
A Measure 37 claim filed by Bill Bayless asks for permission to divide 332 acres on the Dee Highway into 232 lots. The claim was granted in lieu of paying the requested $29,918,655.
The Martins are concerned with the impact of such a large subdivision on their ability to farm, as well as the potential environmental impacts.
“We are challenging the State of Oregon for its flawed decision on a claim that would conflict with our farming operation and increase fire risk in nearby forestland,” Larry Martin said. He stressed that the appeal is directed at the state, not at his neighbors.
“We’re not trying to pit neighbor against neighbor,” he said.
The HRVRC is targeting the state and not Hood River County in all of its appeals so far.
“The counties are not the ones in the lead,” Franke said. “The state is where the policy needs to change. The state is where the legislative fixes can happen.”