Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Court orders $1.15M paid in property rights case

Dorothy English wanted to develop 20 acres she and her late husband bought in 1953, and divide it into eight home sites.

PORTLAND (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court has ordered Multnomah County to pay the estate of property rights pioneer Dorothy English $1.15 million in a dispute over development restrictions.

The ruling last week ended a long legal battle over whether the county owed English compensation for initially denying permission to develop home sites on her property northwest of Portland.

English died in April 2008 at 95. She wanted to develop 20 acres she and her late husband bought in 1953, and divide it into eight home sites for her family.
She became the spokeswoman for Measure 37, which voters approved in 2004 to give property owners the right to develop their land.
When it passed, she filed the state's first Measure 37 claim. She was joined by 6,500
Oregonians who demanded either compensation for diminished property values or for the right to build, in many cases, extensive subdivisions.
Voters later scaled back development rights by passing Measure 49 in 2007. Most of the original claimants settled for a process that would allow them to build one to three homes.

English continued her battle in the courts.

In December 2006, she won a compensation judgment for $1.15 million. The county agreed to let her develop eight lots instead of paying her the compensation. But English rejected conditions the county attached.

In 2009, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in her favor and later scolded the county for engaging in what it called a “war of attrition” against English, who had died the year before.

Monday, June 14, 2010

New Legislation Extends Time Period for Final Plat Approval

Finally, a little good news for builders and developers who are trying to plat properties. The legislature has granted a temporary extension to save preliminary plats that could expire during this economic downturn.

The Municipal Research and Service Center of Washington (MRSC) has issued an opinion on the Washington State Legislature’s recent adoption of Substitute Senate Bill 6544. The legislation, signed by the Governor, extends preliminary plats for two years, from five to seven years until 2014.
In SSB 6544 (Ch. 79, Laws of 2010), the 2010 legislature extended the statutory time period for submitting final plats for city or county approval from five years after preliminary plat approval to seven years after that approval. It also extended the vesting period for approved final plats from five to seven years. This legislation, which is effective June 10, sunsets on December 31, 2014.

It appears that the purpose of this temporary extension is to save preliminary plats that are in jeopardy of lapsing because of the economic downturn. This purpose should help explain which preliminary plats this legislation applies to. The original bill included an intent section that, although deleted in the substitute bill that was adopted, sheds light on legislative intent:

(1) The legislature finds that active land use permits are expiring due to a downturn on the state economy. Considerable cost has been expended by applicants and local jurisdictions to approve projects. Allowing these projects to expire would make it difficult for the state to meet its housing needs in the future and impose considerable staff costs on local governments to perform work that has already been completed.

(2) The legislature further finds that, in the current period of economic challenge, an extension for plat approvals will contribute to the overall employment of the state by employing citizens of Washington as soon as is practicable in the family wage jobs of the land development and home building industries.

The public testimony in favor of the bill, as summarized in the various bill reports, also focused on the current economic climate and its effect on development activity.

To read the full opinion, please go to:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Can you spare 70 hours for EPA?

Got an extra 70 hours to donate? Are you willing to disclose sensitive financial information? If so, you’re invited to take part in EPA’s upcoming survey?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is asking for your input as it considers five new regulations. One of these regulations would require existing developments to retrofit inadequate storm water management controls and another that would require developers to create long-term controls designed to better manage storm water discharges well past the construction phase.

The EPA plans to distribute the survey to 2,400 builders and developers in July. Some people have objections to questions, which require respondents to detail sensitive financial information. The surveys are burdensome as well, with the longer version expected to take about 70 hours to complete, according to the EPA’s own estimates.

The agency is accepting comments from the development community through June 9. The draft is available at the EPA storm water Web site.

To submit comments to the docket — Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2009-0817 — click here or go to

Are you going to take the survey?