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Jackson County Appeals Measure 37 Decision

Land use advocates are hailing an appeal filed by Jackson County and conservation groups Wednesday.

Five weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that people in Jackson County who got Measure 37 waivers were not affected by Measure 49, even though voters passed Measure 49 to replace Neasure 37. As Rob Manning reports, the new appeal brings the complicated case to a much bigger stage.

Judge Owen Panner ruled, essentially, that waivers granted under Measure 37 are “contracts” and therefore can’t be re-written wholesale by a state law, like Measure 49. But Panner did not invalidate Measure 49.

And, since the case only involved Jackson County as a defendant - and not the whole state - it introduced confusion with two contradictory laws — but only in Jackson County.

That’s why before the ink was dry on the ruling, lawyers on both sides of the land-use divide were talking about an appeal.

Dave Hunnicutt is the president of Oregonians in Action, a property rights advocacy group. The day after Panner’s decision, he said he was pleased, but wanted it to apply statewide.

Dave Hunnicutt: “I suspect now that there’ll be a lawsuit filed against the state, naming the state as a defendant, and asking for the exact same ruling that Judge Panner issued. And I would expect that to come from us, or from another group of attorneys within the month.”

But now it’s Jackson County - not Hunnicutt - pushing Panner’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The county is getting support from land conservation groups like Rogue Advocates, based in southern Oregon. Jimmy MacLeod is the group's executive director.

Jimmy MacLeod: “The issue with this particular suit and Judge Panner’s ruling is that it undermines the people’s popular vote on Measure 49, to replace Measure 37 - which really overreached the purpose of trying to provide some relief to people who are on farm and forest land who wanted to put a house on there for a family member. It opened it up to full-scale development.”

If MacLeod and Jackson County win the appeal, it would strengthen Measure 49 statewide, and largely limit development to two or three houses per person. If not, that would reinforce Measure 37 and put 49 in doubt.

Each side says it’s confident in its chances at the higher court. But even if this issue is decided quickly, there are still lots of other lawsuits muddying the landscape around Oregon’s land-use laws.

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