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Hoffman vesting denied


   Despite his estimate that he's spent over half a million dollars on his project, local builder Bill Hoffman will not be allowed to move forward with a subdivision north of Madras.
   That was the ruling by two of three members of the Jefferson County Commission April 23, following a public hearing on whether or not Hoffman and his wife Darlene were "vested" in the project.
   Under Measure 37, which was passed in 2004, the Hoffmans had obtained a waiver of land-use laws to allow them to subdivide a 187-acre parcel on Northwest Fir Lane into 60 lots with dwellings.
   The subsequent passage of Measure 49, in November, amended Measure 37, and only allowed landowners who had obtained a waiver and acted on that waiver in good faith to be "vested" and able to proceed.
   Although they obtained the waiver in 2005, the Hoffmans didn't file the subdivision application until February of 2007.
   Prior to that, neighbors complained that Hoffman was moving forward with work on the subdivision -- including a raised road across Gard Canyon to connect one side of the proposed subdivision with the other.
   "When he was notified that permits were required," said Lisa Klemp, attorney for the Hoffmans, "he did come down and obtain those permits."
   "His belief was that the waiver allowed him to proceed," she said.
   Pam Hardy, attorney for Central Oregon LandWatch, said that even before the commission considers whether or not Hoffman acted in good faith, as required under Measure 49, "there's a threshhold issue."
   An applicant can't be vested before obtaining land-use approval, she said. "The applicant can't force the county's hand."
   "Unless he has that land-use approval, there can be no vested right," she said, referring to the Hoffmans' subdivision application, which was turned down April 2. "The problem is, the date on which that had to happen has already passed."
   Several neighboring landowners spoke against the Hoffmans' request for vesting. Brock Brooks, who farms property adjacent to the Hoffmans' commented, "Frankly, I can't believe this made it this far."
   Brooks pointed out that there are already 40 or 50 cars going up and down the road each day, entering the highway. "To add 120, you might as well park the ambulance at my house," he said.
   Former county counsel Dave Allen advised the commission, "The theory is, without final land-use approval, if you're doing something ... it's illegal."
   "During this, I cautioned Mr. Hoffman that he needed to be getting permits," Allen said. "You can't create your own hardship case."
   Commission Chairman Bill Bellamy said he didn't believe the Hoffmans met the vesting criteria.
   "I don't believe the good faith argument is going to hold up," he said, noting that Hoffman had a philosophical disagreement about the need to follow the land-use process after obtaining the waiver.
   "Once he received the waiver, he did almost nothing for two years," Bellamy said.
   Commissioner John Hatfield agreed and moved to deny the vesting application. Commissioner Mike Ahern, who has represented the Hoffmans in real estate transactions, excused himself from the hearing.
   Following the meeting, Hoffman commented, "We've done more work than what they've approved vested rights for," referring to an earlier approval granted by the County Commission.
   "I'll probably take it to the upper courts," he said.
   Earlier, Ed Fitch, of Redmond, who is representing the Hoffmans in their appeal of the commission's denial of the subdivision application, asked the commission to reconsider the denial.
   "They asked to expand the scope of the appeal to include the new evidence and testimony (from the vesting hearing)," Allen said.
   The commission agreed to reconsider the subdivision application on May 28, so that the vesting decision can be made part of the record.