Measure 37 claimants plan protest

More than 100 Measure 37 claimants plan to protest a proposed new Jackson County land-use ordinance that could affect the value of their property when the county commissioners meet to discuss the measure Wednesday (For more on the meeting, see Page 8A).

They also plan to object to the commissioners' decision to deny them the right to speak on the proposed ordinance during the meeting.

Measure 37, approved by voters in 2004, gave property owners the right to file a claim to waive land-use regulations that were enacted after they purchased their land. The commissioners are scheduled to discuss an emergency ordinance that would spell out a process for determining the rights these claimants might have under Measure 49, approved by voters last November as the "fix" for Measure 37.

The proposed ordinance would establish a procedure for obtaining vesting rights under Measure 49. Of the 571 approved claims in Jackson County, only a small number might eventually have vesting rights under the new measure. Once a property owner proves a claim is vested, it gives certain rights to develop the land.

Medford resident David Smith, a member of a newly formed group called Citizens for Constitutional Fairness, said the county should not hurry through the process. Smith said property owners have a right to speak about the ordinance at the meeting.

"It is not an emergency," he said.

Smith said a bus hired for the 9:30 a.m. Wednesday meeting will pick up people in Medford and transport them to Ashland High School to protest. For information on getting a ride, call 890-3575.

Commissioner C.W. Smith said he initially considered opening up discussion of the ordinance to the public at Wednesday's meeting, but after further review by other commissioners and staff he decided against the idea.

New ordinances are routinely brought before the commissioners twice, the first time for preliminary consideration, and the second time for final action. The commissioners generally don't allow public comment during the first reading of an ordinance.

"During the second reading in about two weeks, we will open it up for discussion," said Smith.

There's an element of urgency about the ordinance because many residents with Measure 37 claims have received a letter from state officials advising them they have 90 days to decide how they want to proceed under Measure 49, he said.

Residents can choose among five options, ranging from a "fast-track" alternative that would allow up to three new houses to be built, to attempting to establish a vested right to develop the property as they had planned under Measure 37.

The county needs some kind of an ordinance that spells out the method needed to prove vesting for what will likely be a small number of claimants, Commissioner Smith said.

"It is a small number, but they have a lot at stake," he said.

Commissioner Smith said the state Department of Land Conservation and Development has not developed a standard practice for determining vesting, so the responsibility is falling on the counties.

County officials have estimated that fewer than 41 Measure 37 claimants have pursued some kind of land-use action so far, which would be one basis for determining whether a property owner has vesting rights.

County officials have previously stated that they were treating Measure 37 claims as tort claims against the county. In the documents approving the claims, the county stated it did not have the money to pay for value that was lost as a result of land-use laws, and instead waived land-use regulations.

David Smith said the state's letter is trying to scare claimants into relinquishing their rights by choosing the fast-track option.

"They are giving their rights away for a pittance," he said. "It's basically a bait and switch."

Jackson County has already received at least three lawsuits from property owners who contend the waivers they received from Jackson County are contracts that can't be voided by subsequent legislation.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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