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No on 49

by: Jim Clark, Duane Weeks, who has owned 20 acres of land north of Canby with his wife for more than 40 years, finally received approval to subdivide. Now he worries Measure 49 will take it all away.

For owner, relief was in sight

By TODD MURPHY

Pamplin Media Group

After 41 years, Duane Weeks is sitting on 20 acres of frustration.

The 20 acres is where he and his wife have lived since 1966.

But the land that the Weekses' home sits on just north of Canby represents their retirement fund, as well. A retirement fund they can't seem to get their hands on.

Even when Weeks bought the 20 acres more than four decades ago, the land - where Weeks grew berries for years - proved not to be enough acreage to provide a full-time living.

Then, over the years, Oregon's changing land use laws in essence meant no one could buy it as a farm - because they couldn't make the $80,000 annual income required to call it a farm.

But the land use laws won't allow Duane and Janice Weeks to divide the land and sell it for housing parcels either.

Regulations 'were just tightening the screws down,' Duane Weeks says. 'And here you sat,' with no one willing to buy the land for anywhere near what it should be worth, he says.

'You've got a piece of land that you can sell, and no one will buy it,' Weeks says.

Measure 37 finally was going to give the Weekses a chance to sell the land for a fair price. Duane Weeks wanted to divide the land into three parcels - a six-acre parcel that included the house and two other roughly seven-acre parcels.

The Weekses spent 'in excess of $50,000' over two and a half years pursuing their Measure 37 claim, which eventually was approved by both Clackamas County and the state of Oregon.

But now, just as Weeks is finishing some asphalt work to obtain a final building permit from the county, 'they're jerking the rug out from underneath us,' he says - with the possible approval of Measure 49.

Even though Weeks' claim might seem to be one that Measure 49 would allow to get approval fairly easily - the measure allows for quick approval of subdividing land to build three houses or fewer - Weeks isn't a believer.

Measure 49 has too many restrictions, too many exceptions, he says. Too much fine print. He would be spending tens of thousands more to pursue an approval that likely would never come, Weeks says.

'The devil is in the details,' Weeks says. 'There's no one item (in Measure 49) that comes out and says, 'We're going to kill 37.' But you look, and you know that they are. You can't go from A to Z in a straight line.

It's just not conducive to spending the money that's required, the time that's required. There are so many pitfalls along the road.'

Some see claims as leverage

By CHRISTIAN GASTON

Pamplin Media Group

Andrew Miller grew up in Portland, and after stints living around the country, he's glad to be back on his native soil.

'I like the mix of mountains and the oceans,' Miller says. 'I really missed the ocean when I lived elsewhere.'

He might sound like an environmentalist. But Miller, 48, also heads Stimson Lumber Co., the Portland-based timber giant that's the Darth Vader of Oregon's latest land-use debate.

'Any ballot initiative, you have to have a villain or an opponent. That's politics. I understand that,' Miller says.

The ballot initiative in question, Measure 49, has turned into a pitched battle between two views of what Oregonians should be able to do with their land and whether Measure 37 really upended Oregon's famous land-use process.

Stimson has donated $375,000 to date to Oregonians in Action, the group leading opposition to Measure 49. The company also has filed Measure 37 claims on more than 57,000 acres throughout the state - 36,000 of them in Washington County.

But Miller says that following the money, in this case, misses the point.

'People want to say we're in it for the money, and that's fine. I'm a big boy. I can take it,' Miller says. 'But the truth is: We're protecting our ability to harvest timber.'

When Measure 37 passed, Miller says, the company had a long internal debate about whether it would file any claims at all. Eventually, Miller says, company officials thought filing the claims might serve as leverage to get more legislative protection for the company's timber rights.

But only one claim - a 1,100-acre parcel south of Cornelius in rural Washington County - was meant to be developed from the beginning, Miller says.

'We'll do something up there because it's a problematic place to do industrial forestry,' he says. 'Ignore 37 - we were going to do something there anyway,' he says.

The company is working with county planners to develop 40 home sites on the land. That effort probably will end if Measure 49 passes, Miller says.

But the company has no plans to put houses around Washington County's Henry Hagg Lake or line the Coast Range with condominiums, Miller says - the land's timber is too valuable. When the Legislature was working up Measure 49, Miller said he was willing to give up the claims if Democrats would include language that limited future forestry regulations. They didn't.

'(Measure) 37 was about drawing a bright line and saying enough is enough,' Miller says, who adds he'll keep fighting until Election Day to keep that bright line in place.

'We're being vastly outspent, but I think it's an important battle because 49 is just another finger in the dam.'