Posthaste Facts on the Environment #29


County Zoning Flip-Flop Costs Disabled Worker $750,000


When Jim Watts purchased a 40-acre property in Deschuts County, Oregon in 1986 for $42,500, he thought he was making a sound investment in the future. Among other things, he planned to build his retirement home on the undeveloped property. Then in 1993, Jim seriously injured his back working as a heavy equipment operator. Unable to do heavy manual labor again, Jim decided to sell one of the three parcels of his property and use the proceeds to retrain himself. It seemed like a good plan as a realtor had appraised each parcel at about $250,000. After getting an offer for the parcel in 1994, he was shocked to find out that the county would not issue the necessary building permit. Unbeknownst to him, the county had changed the regulations the year before to prohibit any building on private property zoned as "forest." Leaving aside the fact that Jim's property did not have a forest on it, the county assured him prior to the purchase that there would not be a problem in developing the land. Prohibited from building, Jim then applied for federal and state grants to grow a tree farm. However, the grants were denied because the sagebrush-covered property was too arid to support trees. Due to the zoning restriction, the value of Jim's property plummeted to only $2,000. Jim says things have been tough for him because his age, back injury and the loss of a right hand in another accident has made it very difficult to find a decent job.

Posthaste Facts on the Environment #29, October 1999 by The Environmental Policy Task Force of the National Center for Public Policy Research, E-Mail [email protected]

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