JOHN DAY - Measure 37 goes into effect Dec. 2, and the City Council is scrambling to approve an ordinance to deal with any claims brought by landowners.

The council tabled a decision on approval of an ordinance that would place a processing fee on Measure 37 claims until a special meeting scheduled for Dec. 1.

"If the city wants to be able to charge for filing and processing a Measure 37 claim, we need to have this ordinance in place before December second," City Manager Peggy Carey said.

Carey recommended the city adopt the ordinance, which would define the minimum requirements for filing a claim, the fees and the decision maker for denial or approval of a claim.

Except for claims that Carey deems have no merit, a power given to the city manger under the measure, the City Council is the final arbiter.

The city's Real Property Compensation Ordinance would establish a process that would give property owners an "adequate and fair opportunity" to present a claim to the city, protect limited public funds and make the process fit for legal review by the circuit court.

The fee required by the ordinance would apply strictly to the city's actual cost of processing the claim.

Although many other Oregon counties and cities have either passed or are planning to pass a similar ordinance, their effectiveness under Measure 37 remains questionable.

"No one knows anything, really," Carey said, "but we need to have an ordinance in place, a clear process, with clear criteria."

One of the problems with the filing process is that under Measure 37, a person with a claim may step around a form and simply submit a letter describing their situation, and if the process is thought to be too expensive or cumbersome, that's reason for a lawsuit.

The city's ordinance includes a provision that will allow neighbors to sue if a land-use waiver diminishes their property value.

Under Measure 37, it falls on the property owner to prove his claim, and the city's ordinance creates 14 steps a land owner must follow to get a land-use waiver or compensation if the waiver is denied, including investigation and recommendation by the city manager and a public hearing before the final decision by the City Council.

Steps for filing a claim include providing the city a payment of a fee in advance, which could increase, depending on the cost incurred by the city; copy of the prior land regulation and a copy of the current regulation; amount of the claim, based on alleged reduction in property value supported by an appraisal by a licensed appraiser (claims over $30,000 will require two separate appraisals); a narrative describing the history of the owner and family's ownership, the history of relevant land-use regulations applicable to the claim and how the city's action would reduce property value; and site plan and drawings in a defined format.

The final decision by the City Council would be based on whether the public interest would be better served by a waiver of the regulations or by paying of compensation

Measure 37 goes into effect more than a month before the Legislature starts its session Jan 10, which puts a lot of pressure on local governments to deal with land-use claims that have the potential to bust the bank.

The measure won't have much affect in the city, Carey said.

"It's the county that will have problems. I feel sorry for Hilary (McNary, county planning director)," Carey said.

The county has a longer process to get an ordinance passed, and was still consulting with its land-use attorney about how to proceed under Measure 37; so it won't have an official process to address the first claims it receives.

The city's special meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. at City Hall.

Measure 37

John Day City Council has scheduled a meeting to discuss a proposed land- claim ordinance for 7 p.m. to day at City Hall.

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