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Oregonians in Action


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Thank you Dave Hunnicutt of Oregonians in Action (see pages 6 and 7) for Senate Bill 476

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Oregonians in Action

  1. 1. Looking Forward Oregonians In Action Education Center is a non-profit, non- partisan, IRS 501 (c)(3) corporation wholly funded by voluntary contributions. For balanced, flexible and fair land-use regulations, with respect and protection for the rights of landowners Original material in Looking Forward is not copyrighted and may be used freely. We would appreciate credit to Oregonians In Action Education Center, but will not object if anyone wishes to use it without credit. A publication of Oregonians In Action Education Center on land use and property rights continued on page 3 The Oregon Legislature has just completed its 2013 legislative session, and Oregonians In Action finished with another good showing, passing five bills, while stopping many bad bills in their tracks. This marks the twelfth consecutive session in which at least one OIA bill has passed. Working closely with legislators of both parties, OIA has found common ground on a number of bills that reform Oregon’s land use system, give property owners more freedom to use their land, or solve problems encountered by Oregon businesses or property owners. This session was no exception. At the conclusion of the session, the following OIA bills had passed: HB 3067: House Bill 3067 transferred an area of land known as “Bonny Slope” from Multnomah County to Washington County, resulting in the first change to the Washington County boundary in its history. OIAFinishesAnother Successful Legislative Session
  2. 2. LOOKING FORWARD 2 Volume 20, Issue 1 Inside This Issue: The Looking Forward is Produced by: Oregonians In Action Education Center staff. Printed by: Lynx Group, Inc. Salem, OR Oregonians In Action Education Center PO Box 230637 Tigard, OR 97281 Phone: 503-620-0258 or 1-888 LAND USE Fax: 503-639-6891 E-mail: OIA Education Center Board of Directors, Officers & Staff: Officers: Kay Finney President Mitch Teal Vice President Ross Day Secretary KristiHalvorson Treasurer Directors: Kristi Halvorson Dean Werth Kay Finney Mitch Teal Barbara Decker Ted Urton Ross Day Executive Director: Dave Hunnicutt 1-7: OIA Finishes Another Successful Legislative Session 8-9: Do You Own Riverfront Property? If So, We’d Like To Hear From You 10-11: Eastern Oregon Should Not Become The Next Appalachia Get all your property rights news at these great websites:
  3. 3. LOOKING FORWARD Volume 20, Issue 1 3 OIAFinishesAnotherSuccessful Legislative Session continued from front page In 2002, Metro, the Portland area regional government amended its urban growth boundary (UGB) to add Bonny Slope. Once inside the UGB, the property owners in Bonny Slope could expect that their property would develop as an urban area. Unfortunately, when bringing Bonny Slope inside the UGB, Metro failed to realize that neither Multnomah County nor the City of Portland could provide the needed services (water, sewer) to Bonny Slope. AlthoughWashington County could easily provide the needed water and sewer service to Bonny Slope, they were unwilling to extend services outside of the county boundary. In 2010, a group of Bonny Slope property owners asked OIA for help in solving this mess. Working with Senator Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, Representative Mitch Greenlick of Portland, and WashingtonCountyChairmanAndyDuyck,thebestsolutionseemed to be to simply change the county boundaries, and add Bonny Slope toWashington County. As a result, House Bill 3067 was introduced and approved unanimously in the Oregon House and the Oregon Senate, and is now law. Under the bill, Washington County and Multnomah County are finalizing the details necessary to change a county boundary. Thanks to Senator Johnson, Representative Greenlick, and Commissioner Duyck for their efforts on this bill. HB 2746: House Bill 2746 makes a significant change to the law for replacement dwellings in farm (EFU) zones. Under current law, a replacement dwelling is an allowed use in an EFU zone in all counties. In order to qualify for replacement, a dwelling must have intact walls, a roof, electricity, plumbing, and a heating system. Structures that were once dwellings but have since been converted to other uses, are dilapidated, or have long been removed from the property do not qualify for replacement under current law. continued on page 4
  4. 4. LOOKING FORWARD 4 Volume 20, Issue 1 continued from page 3 HB 2746 changes this. Under the bill, structures that were once dwellings but have become dilapidated, converted to other uses (like ag buildings), or have been removed from the property may be used to qualify a property for a replacement dwelling. The effect of this bill is to allow dwellings on EFU zoned properties that would otherwise not qualify for a dwelling. Thanks to Representatives Ben Unger of Hillsboro, John Davis of Sherwood, and Brian Clem of Salem for their work on this bill. HB 3415: House Bill 3415 appears to be the first legislation of its type in the United States. The bill requires a state or local government to charge a “market rate” when the government leases space on its communications tower. The bill is the result of a problem arising in Union County. Ken Johnson owns and operates Racom, a La Grande company which installs communications towers, and leases space on the towers it owns and maintains. Nearly a decade ago, Racom installed a tower on a hill above La Grande to serve La Grande and its outlying areas. The cost to install a tower is approximately $150,000. In addition, Racom pays a monthly lease fee to the United States Forest Service (USFS) for leasing the land for the tower, and pays nearly $5,000 a year in property taxes to Union County for the tower. Shortly after Racom constructed its tower, Union County sought and received a federal grant to construct a communications tower. The grant paid for the entire cost of purchasing and constructing the tower, which the County placed on USFS property immediately adjacent to Racom’s leased property. Union County pays no lease fee to the USFS, and no property taxes. In other words, Union County pays nothing for its communication tower. continued on page 5 OIAFinishesAnother Successful Legislative Session
  5. 5. LOOKING FORWARD Volume 20, Issue 1 5 OIAFinishesAnother Successful Legislative Session continued from page 4 After constructing its tower, Union County approached Racom customers, offering lease rates for space on the County tower. Because the County had no outlay for installing its tower or leasing the USFS land, it could offer Racom customers lease rates which Racom (or any other private company) simply couldn’t match. Unfortunately, other rural counties in Oregon were also seeking federal grants, threatening Racom and every other rural Oregon communications business. Looking for help, Johnson contacted Oregonians InAction. Working with Representative Jim Weidner, HB 3415 was introduced and approved with overwhelming support. Thanks to Representative Jim Weidner of Yamhill for sponsoring the bill, and to Representative Paul Holvey of Eugene for first hearing the bill and moving it to the floor. HB 3479: House Bill 3479 resolves a thorny problem in The Dalles. The bill limits the ability of The Dalles to charge a “fee in lieu of a local improvement district (LID)” or to require a property owner seeking to partition land to enter into a non-remonstrance agreement for the future formation of a LID. For nearly a decade, The Dalles has had an ordinance that requires property owners along unimproved streets to pay a “fee” to the City in exchange for a development permit. The fee is purportedly used to pay for street and sidewalk improvements and does not depend upon the type of land use application submitted. For example, a property owner seeking to partition a residential property to create one new lot and home is required to pay the exact same fee as a developer seeking a 40 lot subdivision. continued on page 6
  6. 6. LOOKING FORWARD 6 Volume 20, Issue 1 OIAFinishesAnother Successful Legislative Session continued from page 5 What is truly staggering, however, is the amount of the fees charged by the City. At the House and Senate hearings on HB 3479, several property owners from The Dalles testified about the amount of the fee being charged by The Dalles under its current program. The amount of the fees ranged from a low of just over $52,000, to a high of over $180,000. As OIA testified in the legislature, there is simply no possibility that the creation of one or two new lots and dwellings would create enough traffic to justify a six figure “fee.” HB 3479 stops the City from charging their “fee” for minor land use applications, like partitions. Thanks to Representative John Huffman of The Dalles and SenatorArnie Roblan of Coos Bay for spearheading this bill through the House and Senate. SB 476: Senate Bill 476 puts some very significant and important safeguards in place for property owners and private businesses who enter into “prospective purchaser agreements” (PPA’s), which are contracts with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for cleaning up polluted properties. Oregon law encourages DEQ to enter into PPAs with private companies to clean up contaminated sites. The contaminated site gets cleaned and rehabilitated without the taxpayer footing the bill; the clean-up creates private sector jobs; and the rehabilitated site is then developed and used by the private sector. Unfortunately, when DEQ refuses to comply with its own PPAs, the entire program is jeopardized. In fact, SB 476 was introduced as a result of DEQ’s failure to honor its PPA with Patrick Lucas, a Sherwood property owner and developer. continued on page 7
  7. 7. LOOKING FORWARD Volume 20, Issue 1 7 OIAFinishesAnother Successful Legislative Session continued from page 6 Lucas’company entered into a PPAwith DEQ to clean-up one portion of a contaminated tannery site in Sherwood. After spending over $1.3 million to clean up the site to DEQ’s specifications, it was discovered that Wells Fargo owned the tannery property during the time that the tannery was dumping toxic materials into a pit at the back of the property. Both the PPAand Oregon law allow Lucas to recover the $1.3 million in clean-up costs from the party who caused the pollution. But before Lucas could seek recovery from Wells Fargo, DEQ negotiated a $2.2 million settlement with Wells Fargo, without notifying Lucas. There was a catch, however. Wells Fargo refused to settle the case unless DEQ agreed that the settlement applied to all pollution clean- up costs, including the $1.3 million spent by Lucas. And what did DEQ do with the money? They kept it, of course, and refused to honor their PPAwith Lucas, ignoring both the contract and Oregon law. The legislature was very troubled by DEQ’s behavior in the Lucas case. SB 476 now prohibits DEQ from agreeing to settle a case that affects the rights of a PPA holder like Lucas without giving the PPA holder the right to participate in the settlement, and allowing a court to review the settlement to make sure that it treats everyone fairly, not just DEQ. If SB 476 had been in effect earlier, DEQ would have been forced to honor their PPA with Lucas. Unfortunately, the legislature did not make SB 476 retroactive, meaning Lucas will still have to fight his legal battles with DEQ in court. Thanks to Senators Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, Larry George of Sherwood, and Floyd Prozanski of Eugene for leading the charge to pass SB 476.
  8. 8. LOOKING FORWARD 8 Volume 20, Issue 1 DoYou Own Riverfront Property? If So, We’d Like To Hear From You If you own property along one of Oregon’s major rivers, your ownership rights may not be what you think they are. We’d like to hear from you. One of Oregonians InAction’s priority bills in the most recent legislative session was Senate Bill 479. If approved, SB 479 would have prevented the State of Oregon from claiming title to drylands which were once submerged (underwater) or submersible (underwater for a portion of the year), but which have been filled by a public body, and are now upland properties in private ownership. The most common way that property that was submerged or submersible becomes upland is by the placement of dredge spoils on property adjacent to uplands. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the federal, state, and local governments dumped dredge spoils on thousands of properties across the state as part of a plan to widen and deepen river channels and coastal bays for ship traffic and other commercial activities. As rivers and bays were dredged, the dredged materials (spoils) were typically placed on shallow or marshy areas near the river or bay. Once enough dredge spoils were deposited, the land became upland, and was typically subsumed by the adjacent property owner. Over the decades, thousands of Oregon properties that contain areas where dredge spoils have been deposited have been bought, sold, and developed as private property. Unfortunately, the Oregon Attorney General and the Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) have begun to assert title to those areas, claiming that although the land is no longer submerged or submersible, it once was, and therefore the State of Oregon holds a title interest in the property. continued on page 9
  9. 9. Volume 20, Issue 1 9 LOOKING FORWARD Do You Own Riverfront Property? If So, We’d Like To Hear From You It gets worse. The State is now demanding that property owners pay the State to clear their title. In a recent case involving property near theWillamette River in Portland, the OregonAttorney General demanded $2,400,000 to release its claim in a 10 acre industrial property which the owner had purchased in 2004 from another company for over $8,000,000. After learning of this problem, OIA asked legislators to sponsor SB 479, and legislators agreed. The bill has resulted in the formation of a group that will meet this fall to attempt to resolve this issue. OIA President Dave Hunnicutt is a part of that group, which is tasked with reaching a compromise, and reporting back to the Oregon legislature and the State Lands Board, with an eye on new legislation in either 2014 or 2015. The DSL has identified over 19,000 privately owned properties along the Willamette River and Oregon coast alone where the State of Oregon claims ownership. Most of these properties have been in private ownership for decades, and have been bought and sold with no one aware that the State claims an interest in the property. These properties, along with others along major Oregon rivers, are a ticking time bomb, waiting to be set off by the Oregon Attorney General. Thousands of Oregon property owners are buying, selling, and developing land that they believe is their own, but which the state also claims. We must resolve this issue now, before further damage is done. If you own property near a major river or bay, we need to hear from you. OIA is trying to identify and organize property owners who own land that contains dredge spoils, and whose titles are threatened by the State. There is strength in numbers, and together, we must demand change. If you own riverfront or bayfront property, please give us a call or send us an email, and we’ll put you on a list and keep you apprised of what we’re doing. continued from page 8
  10. 10. LOOKING FORWARD 10 Volume 20, Issue 1 Eastern Oregon Should Not Become The NextAppalachia Themostrecentgovernmentstatisticsonunemploymentand poverty paint a grim picture for Oregonians living in rural counties, particularly those in eastern Oregon. It’s time for the Oregon legislature to take aggressive steps to fix this problem. A case study shows the disparity. For those of you who don’t venture further east than Bend, Harney County is a large southeastern Oregon county, covering 10,226 square miles. The county seat is Burns. As of the last census, the population in Harney County was 7,422. The nearest metropolitan area is Boise, Idaho, nearly 190 miles away. Harney County shares a border with Humboldt County, Nevada. Like Harney County, Humboldt County is large, spanning 9,626 square miles. Humboldt County is also very rural, with a population of 16,735. The county seat is Winnemucca. The nearest metropolitan area is Reno, nearly 170 miles away. Agriculture is a major industry in both counties, which are geographically similar. Approximately 1.46 million acres of Harney County is in farms, and nearly 760,000 acres of Humboldt County is farmed, making it Nevada’s largest agricultural producing county. Neither county is changing dramatically. Between 2000 and 2010, Harney County lost nearly 3% of its population. By contrast, Humboldt County grew by approximately 2% in the same period. In short, Humboldt County and Harney County are very similar neighbors. But there is one area where the similarities end. InApril, 2013, the unemployment rate in Humboldt County was 5.4%. The unemployment rate in Harney County during the same period was 13.1%. The median household income in Harney County hovers around $35,000. In Humboldt County, it is over $56,000. And nearly 19% of Harney County residents live in poverty. In Humboldt County, that figure drops to 12%. So why are two similarly sized, similarly situated rural county neighbors so different economically? Why do residents of continued on page 11 By David Hunnicutt
  11. 11. LOOKING FORWARD Volume 20, Issue 1 11 Eastern Oregon Should Not Become The NextAppalachia continued from page 10 Harney County have fewer jobs, make less money, and have more residents in poverty than their neighbors to the south? There are a number of reasons, and land use policy is one of them. Nevada does not have a statewide land use system. Land use decisions in Nevada are controlled by the counties. This means that Humboldt County residents can control their own future, whereas Harney County citizens cannot. This point was exemplified in the most recent legislative session. Representative Cliff Bentz, a legislator representing Harney County, brought forward House Bill 3267. HB 3267 would allow Malheur County, a neighboring county to Harney, to create an industrial site in the county. The obvious goal of Representative Bentz’s legislation was to allow Malheur County (which has the same unemployment/ poverty issues as Harney County) to make land available for job creation, to help cure its jobs and poverty problems. This would not be a problem in Humboldt County. If Humboldt County wanted to create more industrial land, they would simply do so, and not have to beg the state legislature to fix a uniquely local issue. But Oregon has statewide land use planning, so Representative Bentz was forced to ask the state legislature to solve Malheur County’s problem. Unfortunately (but predictably), the legislature failed to do so, leaving Malheur County, and other rural Oregon counties like Harney, stuck in the same cycle of unemployment and poverty that they have been for years. Giving Harney County and other rural Oregon counties the ability to do their own land use planning would be a tremendous boon to their fortunes. They need look no further than to their neighbor to the south to figure out why. That’s why the Oregon legislature should take steps in 2014 to allow rural Oregon counties to make their own land use decisions and do their own land use planning, before eastern Oregon becomes the western version of Appalachia.
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