Volume of claims forces commissioners to adjust its process

Clackamas County is adjusting its process for responding to Measure 37 claims because of the huge number of claims received in November and December 2006.

In addition, the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners plans to share its concerns and issues with Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature.

The county received 1,052 Measure 37 applications by the deadline on Dec. 4, which was the last day applications could be submitted without first going through the regular land-use review process. Collectively the claims cover more than 37,000 acres of land.

Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 4, a total of 466 claims were filed, almost as many as had been filed for the entire previous two years, county officials indicated.

Measure 37, approved by Oregon voters in 2004, allows the waiver of land-use restrictions put in place after property owners acquired their land or compensation for the cost of those restrictions. Measure 37 also requires the county to take official action on each claim within 180 days of receiving the claim.

If the 180-day deadline is not met, the claimant can file a lawsuit in circuit court for compensation for any value lost due to current land use regulations, as well as attorney and court costs.

In order to continue to meet the required deadline, the board of commissioners approved adjustments to the process. While the changes will save time for the county, they will still ensure that each claim is thoroughly reviewed. In addition, the public will continue to be notified about and have the opportunity to comment on each claim through a special report mailed to county residents.

'This is a crisis,' said Commis-sioner Martha Schrader. 'We have to change our current process if we are to meet the deadline established in the law. If the deadline is changed in the near future by the Legislature, we will reconsider our response process.'

There are two major changes:

*Rather than sending individual notifications to neighbors, CPOs and municipalities about each claim, a special publication will be mailed to Clackamas County residents later this winter. The document will include a list and map of all pending Measure 37 claims (including claimant, address, legal description, request, etc.) and information about how claimants and others can provide input on any of the claims. Any person may provide written or e-mail comments to the county on any claim.

* Rather than holding board of county commissioners hearings for every claim on which a hearing is requested, and claims for uses other than single-family residential and single-family residential developments of more than 50 lots, the board will now act on staff-approved claims as part of the consent agenda (non-discussion items) at its regular Thursday business meetings.

'These changes will allow us to meet the legal deadline,' said Commissioner Lynn Peterson, Lake Oswego, 'but still provide information to everyone about the claims and give the public the chance to comment.'

She also noted that, even for a claim that is approved, in almost all cases any actual development of property will only be permitted after the owner goes through the county's regular land use application process, which includes additional public notification, including notice to neighbors, and the right to a public hearing.

The board also reviewed and changed the following land ownership criteria on which claims are approved or denied.

* A transfer from an individual to a business entity (such as a partnership, limited liability corporation or family held corporation) in which the individual still has some interest constitutes a change in ownership of the property.

* A spouse who is not listed as an owner on the property records does not have an ownership interest in the property based solely on marriage to the claimant.

*A beneficiary of a trust does not have an ownership interest in property owned by the trust.

* A lease is not a sufficient interest for the lessee to qualify as a Measure 37 land owner.

* A transfer of ownership must be proved by a deed, contract or other written document; an oral contract is not sufficient.

The board reaffirmed one decision from the past - that fire protection standards in the timber district and the agricultural/forest district are not subject to Measure 37 waiver because they are health and safety regulations.

For more information about Measure 37 in Clackamas County, contact Clackamas County Planning Manager Doug McClain at 503-353-4502.

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