It only took four weeks for Wallowa County to see the dark side of Measure 37, the land use compensation law that Oregon voters passed by a 3-to-2 margin in November. Two weeks ago, K&B Ltd. Family Partnership (i.e. Paula and Steve Krieger) filed a Measure 37 claim with the county and City of Joseph for lost value on the Marr Ranch property, south of Joseph and north of the lake, adjacent to Old Chief Joseph's grave. They want $1 million, or a waiver to subdivide the 62 acres into 72 lots.

The county, much less Joseph, can't come close to affording to pay out $1 million. The claim is clearly an attempt to get around difficulties presented by land use law and state and federal regulations, not to mention public pressure from several Indian nations and conservation and historically minded local folks.

What K&B initially faces is an attempt to prove that when it bought the property in 1990, land use law of the time would allow it to subdivide to the extend it asks now. But that's not all.

Measure 37 was meant to allow folks to do with their property as they see fit, according to the land use laws in effect at the time of transfer to the last legally identifiable entity. The question remains: while the Kriegers may have bought the property in 1990, what is the last legal entity to obtain ownership of the property and when was that transfer made? Was it to them personally, a corporation they owned, or a partnership in which they participated? While the direct line of ownership allows them to make a claim, the request for waiver only goes back to the date of last legal ownership.

In other words, if the property was transferred between legal entities after the Kriegers initially bought the property in 1990, their claim referencing 1990 land use law may not stand up.

In any case, all federal and state laws still apply, and the discovery of a substantial number of ancient Native American artifacts in an archeological survey could well put the kibosh on any development at the north end of Wallowa Lake, at least on the Marr Ranch property.

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