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Lawmakers confront land use
March 31, 2007, Herald and News by Ty Beaver

Property rights and Measure 37 dominated questions and conversation at a town hall meeting with state Rep. Bill Garrard and state Sen. Doug Whitsett, both R-Klamath Falls, on Friday. The meeting at the Klamath Basin Senior Community Center was attended by about 100 constituents as well as county and city officials. Issues such as funding for economic development, public health and abuse prevention also came up, but the thing on most people's minds was property issues.

Measure 37 is a law passed by Oregonians in November 2004 and regards land-use laws implemented by local and state government in the past several decades. Property owners limited by land-use regulations enacted since they purchased their property were meant to find relief through the law by filing a claim to have those regulations waived or be compensated by the local county government. Instead, restrictions and other tie-ups have resulted in lawsuits and legal actions against counties and the state.

“Lots of things are wrong with it,” Garrard said.

Work on measure

The Legislature has worked this session to amend Measure 37 and fix its problems, the state lawmakers said, including the addition of allowing family trusts and limited liability corporations to file claims. Despite the assurances, several residents voiced their concerns regarding the land-use law.

Jean Hilyard, county resident, said it sounded like the Legislature's efforts were bypassing the problems it had already created. She and her husband have sought to develop their farm outside the Urban Growth Boundary and have run into roadblocks. While the farm doesn't cover much land, the number of homes they want to build would still make it difficult.

Another landowner said he wants to divide his 8-acre parcel where his home currently is so his grandchildren can build. Garrard informed him that his home would count as one of the three for the streamlined process and could thus only build two more.

“I thought I owned my property,” the landowner said.

County resident Frank Goodson said he appreciated the lawmakers' efforts but was concerned that people were still going to get a bad deal because of opposition to Measure 37.

Not everyone who spoke was in favor of developments in and around the county. Two residents spoke of their concern for agriculture as more arable land is turned into homes and broken into smaller pieces. One accused the state lawmakers of abandoning the agricultural community for private property rights.

Both Whitsett and Garrard said they took offense to that statement and that they seek to represent all the residents of their districts. “It's not fair to accuse someone of not supporting agriculture because they support property rights,” Whitsett said.

The senator also reminded those present that efforts currently being made to amend Measure 37 are only proposals and not near to being voted on by the Legislature. Both he and Garrard urged those with claims to sit tight and be patient as issues are resolved.

- Ty Beaver
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