City readies for Measure 49 requirements

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Sweet Home City Council has begun the process of making changes mandated by the newly approved Measure 49, which superseded community planning policies enacted after Measure 37.

On Jan. 22 the council adopted an ordinance setting the process for Measure 49 claims and passed a resolution setting fees for the process, which includes a $500 deposit and a total bill equal to the actual cost of processing the application. The move is anticipatory more than anything, since no property development in the city has been affected by either measure thus far.

“We haven’t processed any Measure 37 claims,” Community Development Director Carol Lewis said, and no property in town currently qualifies for a Measure 49 claim.

“Measure 49 is based on future land use ordinances,” Lewis said, and that’s what the new ordinance addresses.

Measure 37 of 2004 required jurisdictions that regulate land use to waive the regulations or compensate land owners who owned their property prior to creation of the regulation. Measure 49, passed last November, changed the process and limited the number of homes that could be constructed on certain land.

The ordinance sets up a process to allow the city to deal with future claims.

“Anything we do in the future will be subject to a Measure 49 claim,” Lewis said. It could arise from a number of regulation changes on residentially zoned land, changes in density requirements, for example.

Property owners can only make a Measure 49 claim with the city regarding residential property, Lewis said, and they must prove that a new regulation has devalued their property.

The process deals with proving that a property has been devalued, she said. When that’s proved, then the city can allow a waiver or it can pay the property owner for the lost value.

Under the new ordinance, to file a claim, the claimant must own the property at the time of the regulation change, Lewis said. The zoning affected is anything that allows single-family dwellings as a primary use, which includes the city’s low-density, medium-density and high-density residential zones. Commercial zones allow single-family residences as a conditional use but not as a primary use, so they do not qualify for Measure 49 claims.

It also applies to farm-forest property, Lewis said, but the city does not have any.

Claims must be made within five years of the enactment of the new regulation, Lewis said.

Some exemptions apply, she said. Mostly, they involve things like fire and building codes, rules regarding commonly recognized nuisances and federal laws, such as wetlands.

Once the city grants a waiver to the rules, there is no time limit on developing the land, she said. When the right is transferred to another property owner, they have 10 years to use the property, or the waived rules go into effect.

A surviving spouse may retain a waiver, but the right extends to the date of marriage, she said. If the waived rule came into effect before the marriage, then the rule would no longer be waived.

Anyone interested in starting a Measure 49 claim should begin with a visit to Lewis, she said.

Claimants pay a $500 deposit. The claimant is charged only for actual cost of processing the claim. If the process costs less than $500, then the excess is returned to the claimant.

The fee will be set by resolution later if the council approves the new ordinance.

The city manager or his designee, such as Lewis, will determine whether applications are complete, she said. A complete application will include evidence that the claimant owns the land and evidence, such as an appraisal, that the property has been devalued.

The city has 60 days to complete the process once the complete application is received, Lewis said. Once the application is accepted, the City Council will hold a public hearing and then render a decision. If it decides that a claim is valid, then it may either waive the rule or pay for the loss in property value.

Since it is not a land-use decision, Lewis said, appeals will go into the court system instead of the Land Use Appeals Board.

“The biggest thing for us is when we’re looking at rules, we’ll have to look at (the effect on property values),” Lewis said. Measure 49 specifically applies to the city’s subdivision ordinance, zoning ordinance, comprehensive plan and transportation plan.

“I need my council and my commission to be thinking about it,” she said. “They need to be aware of the potential impacts of what reductions in property values might be.”