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Land exchange law proposed for May vote in Grant County

An initiative headed for the May ballot seeks to require certain land deals to be crafted as exchanges, to prevent loss of private lands on the tax rolls.
Scotta Callister

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on January 28, 2014 2:19PM

CANYON CITY – A measure requiring that certain property deals be structured as land exchanges is headed for the May primary election in Grant County.

If the measure passes, tax-exempt organizations and public agencies that seek to acquire real estate in Grant County would need to do so through an exchange – offering an equal value of real estate back to private ownership.

“It’s about preserving the tax base, and the economic and social values of our county,” said Jim Sproul of Canyon City, one of three chief petitioners for the measure. The others are ranchers Ken Holliday of John Day and Pete Hettinga of Dayville.

The measure seeks “no net loss” of tax revenue or special assessments, Sproul said.

The measure would not apply to cities, school districts, or taxing districts in Grant County.

The petitioners were among citizens who urged the Grant County Court last year to adopt an ordinance along the same lines. The effort was spurred by concerns about what was described as a history of land acquisitions by state agencies and conservation groups.

The Court declined to pass an ordinance, so the proponents decided to take it to the voters through the initiative process.

The Court discussions intensified about the time the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department’s proposal to buy the Grouse Mountain Ranch came to light.

However, Sproul said the measure is not intended to address any specific proposal, but arose out of longer term concerns about the erosion of the tax base and loss of lands in production.

The ballot title was published as a legal notice in last week’s Eagle, with 5 p.m. this Wednesday as the deadline for any objections to the title.

Barring any challenge, the proponents will move ahead with collecting signatures to place the measure on the May 20 ballots.

“Whether it passes or not, it will be up to the voters – and we accept it as such,” Sproul said.


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