County loses jurisdiction over claim

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer January 08, 2014 11:03 am

Decision in Hayes Farm Measure 49 claim put on hold

ENTERPRISE — A decision to approve a subdivision in Joseph was put on hold at a public hearing Tuesday.

The hearing — held at the Wallowa County Courthouse — was a continuation from Dec. 16 where a decision by both County Planning Director Harold Black and the county’s planning commission was appealed to the county commissioners by John Lenahan, a neighbor to the Hayes property on Airport Road, which had been approved for parcel divisions by the county under the state’s Measure 49 land-use law.

Board Chairman Mike Hayward said at the Dec. 16 hearing he and his fellow commissioners were handed a significant amount to review and scheduled a continuation to become familiar with the material before making a decision.

Last month, the applicant, Eastern Oregon Property Development, LLC, which had asked the planning department for permission to divide buildable lots out of the Hayes Farm, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Wallowa County Circuit Court to force the commissioners to approve the application. The petition claimed that the county had taken longer than the 150 days the state allows to render a decision.

In May, Black approved the parcels under his administrative authority, but his decision was appealed to the planning commission by Lenahan. The commission held a public hearing on the matter at its June 2013 meeting. The commission continued the public hearing in September and upheld Black’s decision. 

Lenahan then appealed to the county commissioners, but by the time the hearing was scheduled, the 150-day period had expired and the applicant’s attorney, Janie Burcart, said the petition was filed asking the court to order the commission to approve the application with conditions. To date, the court has not issued the writ.

Burcart said if the court issues the writ, the commissioners can only approve with conditions and cannot deny or remand it.

Hayward said 20 minutes before Tuesday’s hearing he received a call from an attorney who specializes in land-use law. 

“He instructed us that Wallowa County no longer has jurisdiction over this matter because it’s been taken to circuit court,” Hayward said. 

Commissioner Susan Roberts said that the board has asked the advice of several attorneys how to handle the appeal in light of the petition. Commissioner Paul Castilleja said he wanted to make a decision, but agreed that the jurisdiction no longer lay with the board.

Hayward said the attorney who contacted him prior to the meeting suggested all parties should “be able to get together and work this out.” 

Attorneys for both the applicant and the appellant asked the board to go ahead and deliberate. 

“The issue in circuit court is purely a time issue, not the center of your focus,” Burcart said.

The board unanimously agreed not to render a decision. A hearing is scheduled Jan. 29 in Wallowa County Circuit Court.

Contact Katy Nesbitt at 541-786-4235 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Katy on Twitter @lgoNesbitt.