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County denies Corbett Measure 37 claim

Hearing on another claim is continued as residents decry plans

Nearly 20 Corbett residents this week lambasted two landowners' attempt, using a Measure 37 claim, to build more than 200 homes and expand a gravel-mining operation in the hamlet.

In lieu of getting permission for the developments, land owners George Smith and Shirlee Lenske sought $28.8 million in compensation from Multnomah County under Measure 37.

Commissioners on Thursday, April 26, unanimously denied the property owners' claim to subdivide 561 acres in Howard Canyon into 90 to 104 residential lots and log riparian buffers along Howard Creek and a tributary.

The hearing on their claim to allow expanded operations at the Howard Canyon Quarry and subdivide 206 acres into 75 to 100 single-family home lots was continued to allow officials time to study the impacts of prior mining limitations.

Nearly all of the Corbett residents who spoke at the hearing decried the plans, citing environmental impacts, lack of government services and water quality degradation, among other concerns. One man called the subdivision proposal an out-of-scale 'monstrosity.'

Representatives for Smith, the father-in-law of state Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, and Lenske did not attend Thursday's hearing.

Patti Smith is currently on a House land-use committee that is studying problems with the controversial Measure 37. In a response to a letter in the Outlook, she denied having a conflict of interest.

'I have no ownership interest in any Measure 37 claim,' she wrote.

Under the 2004 law, property owners can seek compensation if a government regulation reduces the land's value. Agencies can pay or remove a restriction that allows claimants to use their property under the regulations in place when the land was purchased. Or claims can be rejected.

The commissioners' denial of one claim by George Smith and Lenske was based on the property owners' decision to put the land in the name of limited liability companies in 2001. Land-use laws haven't changed enough since then to lower the value of their land, the board ruled.

Opponents said the developments would destroy Corbett's rural character; about 1,000 people live in the community. Another resident noted that the development is outside the urban growth boundary and that the nearest ambulance is 20 minutes away in Gresham.

A woman who said she lives across the street from the property said neighbors have fought this issue for a decade.

'Please stop this absolute insanity,' she said. 'This seems to be about greed and privilege.'

In a separate hearing, Charles Maxson, who owns property on East Knieriem Road, also made a Measure 37 claim. He wants the county to waive current land-use regulations to allow four home sites on two parcels, or compensate him $385,000. His portion of the hearing was continued, at his representative's request, until May 10.