In the latest series of twists and turns in the saga of the far-reaching Measure 37, Crook County has filed a lawsuit in the circuit court, asking the court to determine whether the county's ordinance implementing the measure is lawful.
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Measure 37 provides that local governments, which reduce property values through land use regulations, must either pay compensation or reinstate those rights.
We believe the county took the right step with the lawsuit. Cities and counties throughout Oregon are struggling with how to implement Measure 37. Crook County is taking the appropriate action to definitely determine whether the ordinance is legal.
Crook County Judge Scott Cooper said the county went to court because of uncertainty about which way the Legislature may head.
"There are lots of ideas floating around the Capitol," Cooper said. "Maybe a bill will pass and maybe it won't. Maybe the governor will sign it and maybe he won't. Meanwhile, time is ticking by."
Time is critical for Crook County and other governments because jurisdictions have 180 days to process Measure 37 claims or claimants can go straight to circuit court and insist that local governments pay compensation and their attorneys' fees.
As one of the circuit court judges prepares to consider whether Crook County's ordinance is legal, there are several key questions we hope he will clarify. Can local governments establish processes which claimants must follow? Can local jurisdictions require claimants to cover costs of processing applications? What type of evidence, if any, can local governments require claimants to submit to prove loss of value? And if development rights are reinstated, are those rights transferable to subsequent owners?
We hope the court will rule in the county's favor, so that the county can get back to the business of examining property claims and see if the claims have merit.
Regardless of how voters feel about Measure 37, it is now law and Crook County and the rest of the state must address it through clear ordinances.
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