CHALLENGE - Verboort farmers fight a neighbor's plan for a 54-unit subdivision
by: Chase Allgood, The bucolic Verboort farm owned by Bob and Crystal Vanderzanden may become a legal battleground over land-use rights as they challenge a neighbor’s Measure 37 claim, which could allow 54 homes to be built next door.

HILLSBORO - Nearly four months after the state's Supreme Court declared Measure 37 constitutional, Washington County is one Measure 37 claim shy of hitting the 500 mark.

The claims - those that haven't been withdrawn or rejected - now cover more than 15,000 acres of county land outside the urban growth boundary, a 20 percent increase since March, when Community Newspapers, Inc. first analyzed the claims.

County Commissioners have approved 261 of the claims, allowing for more than 2,200 houses to potentially be built in the county's rural areas, according to CNI's latest analysis.

Another 600 or so requests for new homes are pending decisions by county staff.

Still, despite the high number of claims and requests, only a few landowners are taking the next step toward construction and filing applications to get the required building permits.

'We still haven't seen much in the way of subdivision development,' said Mark Brown, the county's land development manager.

One permit approved

Indeed, only one building permit that started with a Measure 37 waiver has been approved so far. The landowner, Jerome Rush, is planning to build a new home on five acres located along Highway 47 between Cornelius and Banks.

Three other landowners - each with requests to build one house - are awaiting permit decisions, and three others, also with requests to build one house each, have recently filed paperwork to begin the process.

However, Washington County is poised for its first Measure 37 legal fight involving neighbors.

Bob and Crystal Vanderzanden, Hillsboro farmers who grow tulips in nearby Verboort, filed a lawsuit against the state last October. They are hoping to revoke a Measure 37 waiver that was granted to Louise Bernards, the owner of 54 acres next to the Vanderzandens' Verboort property.

Bernards' son, Dale, has started the process to begin development of the land. He intends to place a 54-house subdivision on the property, a move that worries the Vanderzandens because of the potential impact it could have on their farming. Often, farms next to residential homes are the subject of noise and pollution complaints.

'I just can't see Measure 37 putting a housing development out in the country,' said Crystal Vanderzanden.

Protecting the land

She and her husband are one of two landowners statewide who are challenging neighbors' Measure 37 claims. The couple's attorney, Jeff Klineman, said the lawsuit is intended to protect the agricultural land.

'The concept is that there shouldn't be urban growth in the middle of farms,' Klineman said.

For his part, Dale Bernards said he doesn't want to create a controversy with his neighbors. He said the land is being developed because neither he nor his three siblings live or work on the farm and have no intention of returning to it.

'Everyone is pretty well situated with their location, and we have this piece of real estate,' said Bernards, a real estate broker. 'We don't have anything against any of our neighbors.'

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