In early January, Crag Law Center Staff Attorney Ralph Bloemers, argued two key cases before the Oregon Court of Appeals. Both of the cases involve the continuing legality of two subdivisions that were proposed to be developed under Oregon’s controversial ballot Measure 37. As many Oregonians recall, Measure 37 resulted in over 7,500 claims, many of which threatened to develop on rural resource land. In 2007, the voters passed Measure 49 to reign in the worst abuses of Measure 37.
When Measure 37 was in effect, developers sought out landowners and worked with them to propose large developments on rural resource land. These developments caused great consternation and many neighbors stood up and challenged these proposals. The developments posed negative effect to groundwater supplies and threatened the livability of many communities.
The Crag Law Center was contacted by neighboring landowners and local citizen groups who were concerned about the impacts of these proposals on their water supplies and quality of life, and the Crag Law Center was asked to challenge the claims being made by certain owners that they were entitled to continue with their proposals under Measure 37.
On January 7, Staff Attorney Ralph Bloemers appeared before a 3-judge panel and argued that a proposed development in Yamhill County wine country was not far enough along to be able to continue. The attorney for the landowner, Lane Powell’s Chip Hudson, appeared and argued the case for landowner Gordon Cook.
Prior to the passage of Measure 49, Mr. Cook had done some brush clearing and he had excavated a road. Mr. Cook was seeking the necessary permits to develop the land when Measure 49 changed the law of the land. The Friends of Yamhill County contended that Mr. Cook was not vested in his proposed subdivision, but the County determined that Mr. Cook could continue to establish the use.
On January 13th, Ralph Bloemers argued the second case before another 3 judge panel of the Court of Appeals. In this case, the developer had proposed a 36 unit subdivision on farmland outside the City of Newberg. Prior to the vote on Measure 49, the developer had only put down a gravel road and done some brush clearing yet his attorney argued that this work was sufficient to establish a vested right to allow the owner to construct the 36 unit subdivision.
The Court of Appeals received briefing and heard argument from both sides. We anticipate a ruling from the Court in the coming months and the decisions in both of these cases are likely to provide helpful guidance to state and local govenrment officials seeking to properly implement Measure 49 and protect farmlands, forestlands and water supplies from unsustainable development.