Lets make Measure 37 workable

County board seeks to minimize the cost and complexity of land claims

Since Measure 37 passed statewide in 2004, the Washington County Board of Commissioners has committed significant county resources to processing the claims of property owners in a timely, accurate and fair manner.

Our goal has been to conduct public processes that respect the rights of the claimants as well as their neighbors. However, a large number of unanticipated claims arrived in November 2006 and we now find ourselves unable to process all the claims in a manner consistent with this original intent.

Since December 2004, Washington County has received a total of 873 claims, potentially affecting over 73,000 acres of land. County staff and the Board of Commissioners have reviewed over 520 of these claims - and over 70 percent have been approved for the next phase in the development process.

Thirty days before the December 2006 deadline, the county was inundated with 303 new claims. More claims were received during this period than in any other month since the measure took effect.

Each claim carries a 180-day deadline by which the county must make a decision about waiving land-use regulations or compensating land owners. Failure to meet this requirement allows the claimant to file a lawsuit with the strong possibility of the county having to pay attorney fees. The cost to taxpayers could be in the millions of dollars.

To address this untenable situation, commissioners have asked the Legislature to immediately extend the 180-day timeframe for deciding claims by an additional 180 days for those claims that arrived between Nov. 1 and Dec. 4, 2006.

All five commissioners are also committed to working with the Legislature and other affected interests to craft solutions for the many questions raised by the wording of Measure 37. This work will include the broader policy issues surrounding our land-use-planning system.

It is the goal of your Board of Commissioners to help craft legislation that clarifies Measure 37, to make it as workable as possible while minimizing the cost and complexity of its implementation.

Andy Duyck is a member of the Washington County Board of Commissioners and represents the western portion of county.