>County drafts guidelines for filing local claims

   A draft of an ordinance outlining the procedure for filing Measure 37 claims was approved by the Jefferson County Commission Dec. 1, as a guideline until an official ordinance can be finalized.
   "We don't intend to adopt anything today," Commission Chairman Bill Bellamy informed the handful of people attending the public hearing, noting that there is work to be done on the ordinance, which will be on the commission's agenda for the next month.
   The hearing was in response to the statewide passage of Measure 37, which requires state and local governments to pay property owners -- or not enforce restrictions -- when certain land-use restrictions reduce property values. Instead of paying property owners, governments may repeal, change, or not apply those restrictions.
   Locally, the measure applies to comprehensive plans; zoning, land division, and transportation ordinances; and metropolitan service district framework plans.
   It does not apply to "regulations of commonly and historically recognized public nuisances, public health and safety protections, regulations required to comply with federal law, and laws restricting the use of property for the purposes of selling pornography or performing nude dancing."
   Total costs for city and county governments across the state to administer the new law are estimated at between $46 and $300 million per year, plus compensation costs, which could not be estimated.
   County Counsel Jacki Haggerty prepared the draft, which outlines the ordinance's purpose and intent; defines terms; explains how to submit a claim, what to include with the claim, and how the claim will be reviewed; and places conditions on waivers or modifications of regulations.
   "I hope it won't be too onerous to the public," said Haggerty of the nine-page document, which must be available to the public at least a week before it is adopted. "We're trying to make this reasonable, so we can treat everybody consistently and fairly."
   The draft says that a claim must be submitted within two years of enactment of a land-use regulation, or two years of the date the owner of the property submitted a land-use application -- whichever is later.
   The statement must include verification from all owners with a legal interest in the property, a map or survey of the property, evidence showing that the reduction in the fair market value of the property is a result of a land-use regulation, a title report, details of how the regulation adversely affects or restricts the use of the property, a copy of a written appraisal, and a statement of the relief sought by the property owner, among other things.
   All claim processing fees need to be paid at the time the claim is filed.
   The board should carefully consider filing fees for the claims process, Haggerty said. "If we underestimate, in terms of fees, the community development department is going to be subsidizing it," she said.
   Chris Gannon, County Community Development Department administrator, said that there have been no formal claims filed, but four people have expressed interest in filing a claim.
   Citing the extensive staff time a claim might require, Gannon suggested a fee of $2,500 for the department to process a Measure 37 claim. A preapplication might be set at $250 for a preliminary review, to ensure that the claim should be filed with the county, rather than with the state, for example.
   "It's probably a bit low when you think about a hearing claims officer," Gannon said.
   The draft says that a completed claim will be referred to a claims review officer designated by the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners.
   Bellamy said that he likes the idea of eventually appointing a hearing claims officers. Still, he added, "I think the hearings, at least for the first year, should be in front of the board, because we're going to be setting policy, and we're going to be setting precedent."
   Crook County has set an application fee of $1,500, and appointed a person to hear the claims. Deschutes County will charge a $500 processing fee.
   Redmond and Sisters will not charge a fee, and Bend will charge $50, but all three will bill applicants for the time involved in processing the claim.
   "I want property owners in the county to sit down and work with us, not come in as adversaries," Bellamy said, suggesting a three-phase fee that starts at about $350.
   "I really want our staff to endeavor to find the actual cost," said Commissioner Walt Ponsford.
   As the commission prepares to adopt an ordinance, Mickey Killingsworth of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau advised commissioners to consider the county's smoke management, weed control, and quarantine ordinances, as they affect the value of property.
   "You need to think outside the box," she said.
   Kenny Read, rancher and president of the Jefferson County Cattlemen's Association, agreed that the county needs to consider other ordinances, such as the one regulating the use of genetically-modified products, such as bent grass.
   "Measure 37 was supposed to simplify things, and all it did was complicate things," he said.
   "I don't think we should rush into adopting anything," Bellamy said, as the meeting concluded. "Don't listen to all the Chicken Littles. This crisis is not here. Most of our applications are going to be little ones."
   Commissioner Mary Zemke is hopeful that the board will have to make decisions on longtime issues. "Here I am wildly optimistic that we're finally going to have to solve problems that have been with us for decades," she said.
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