PENDLETON - The Umatilla County commissioners approved the first two land-use waivers under Measure 37 in the county at a hearing Thursday. The action could open land next to the Pendleton Country Club for housing construction.

The second waiver regards the division of a 162-acre farm owned by Joyce Broun that is also on Highway 395 south of Pendleton near the country club property.

Measure 37, approved in a statewide vote, requires governments to pay land owners compensation if they are restricted from using their land because of land-use regulations enacted after they owned the property - or forgo enforcement by repealing, changing or not applying the land-use restrictions.

The final language of Thursday's decisions should be drafted in about a week, county commission Chairman Emile Holeman said. The applicants then must seek state approval. The state has 180 days to issue a ruling. If it is not favorable to the applicants, they can appeal it in circuit court.

The Pendleton Country Club purchased its land in 1955, well before current state land-use regulations were in effect. The golf course was relocated then to its current location from the property on the north hill where Pendleton High School is situated.

"They wanted to have an area where they could develop and grow," Holeman said of the move. "They genuinely believed at the time that they could expand their operations out there."

"The country club in particular was a poster child for Measure 37," Commissioner Bill Hansell said. "It fulfilled the very essence of the intent. To me, it's a matter of fairness and equity. Part of their being a good neighbor was to make their land available so the high school could be located there."

The country club was blocked in 2001 from developing housing on land overlooking the golf course. The plan was approved by the county but overturned by the state Land Use Board of Appeals.

The country club wants to develop its property surrounding the golf course that could potentially be transferred to residential owners. The lot sizes "may vary from lots as small as 50-by-100 feet to as much as one or more acres, depending upon future planning and development."

Housing could include condominiums, multi-family units and single-family homes. The Measure 37 waiver also would allow for the infrastructure to support residential uses.

In the other case, Joyce Broun wants to divide her acreage into small, 19-acre farms. She took possession of the land from her parents in 1973, when such divisions were allowed. Realtor Kalvin Garton, representing Broun at the hearing, said Broun's land could be divided into eight parcels.

Holeman and Hansell said it is difficult to predict how the state will respond to the waivers because Measure 37 is still relatively new and these are the first waivers granted in the county.

"As we speak there is discussion in the legislature (about changing the law), so it's still being kicked around a bit," Holeman said.

Hansell said the commissioners held true to its intent of responding quickly and favorably to such waivers.

"It was our intent that we would not be obstructionist," Hansell said. "These are the first two that have worked their way through the process and I think we've accomplished the goal we set to make it user-friendly."

Garton, who was initially involved in the Pendleton Country Club development issue and filed the Broun waiver application, noted that Thursday's hearing was held just 70 days after the application was filed.

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