It's fun to play make-believe, even (or especially) when you're 59 years old. Yesterday I tried to make a Marion County hearings officer believe that I knew as much about Measure 37 vesting as a real attorney.
And I did a pretty darn good job. My wife, Laurel said so, which proves it. "You sounded like a lawyer," she told me after I testified.
Ordinarily I wouldn't take that as a compliment.
But since I was arguing that a Measure 37 claim wasn't far enough along to be exempted from Measure 49, which fixed many of the flaws in Measure 37, I was glad to hear that my legal arguments sounded, well, legalish.
I labored for most of Tuesday on my "brief," an eight page marvel of logic, clear writing, and analytic brilliance (I figure that attorneys have big egos, so I need to play the part). Humble admission, though: genuine attorney Ralph Bloemers of the Crag Law Center edited my masterpiece, improving it quite a bit.
For the reading pleasure of land use junkies, here it is.
Still, as much as I enjoy exercising my brain cells on coming up with legal arguments, hopefully helping to stave off Alzheimer's, I'd prefer to be doing something else with my time. However, what can you do when a government agency seemingly is playing loose with the law?
That's what Measure 49 is now: the law of the land in Oregon. Last November voters overwhelmingly approved this strengthening of protections for farm, forest, and groundwater limited land.
Yet it seems to us that Marion County is dragging its feet on implementing both the letter and the spirit of Measure 49.
In this case, a woman filed a Measure 37 claim because she wanted to be exempted from a regulation (passed after she bought her property) that upped the minimum lot size in her rural residential area from 1.5 to 2 acres.
This allowed her to adjust a lot line and partition her property into four 1.5 acre lots and one 3.66 acre lot. These five lots are in a groundwater limited area that already has well problems.
Measure 49 limits Measure 37 claims in such areas to three home sites, which is what the claimant will end up with if her claim isn't determined to be vested (meaning, basically, that she's "grandfathered" in to Measure 37).
The hearing was held open for more submissions for another twenty days. So it'll be a while before we know the outcome.
Whichever way the ruling goes, I've made progress on refining my attorney persona. Near the end of the session, the real attorney who represented the Measure 37 claimant and I were called up to the witness table by the hearings officer.
I'd asked to keep the record open so we could respond to new information in favor of vesting that had been presented. The hearings officer said, "I'd like to suggest seven days for the appellant and seven days for the applicant."
My make-believe attorney brain whirred away.
I remembered a previous land use hearing where the lawyer representing our neighborhood group, Jeff Kleinman, was in attendance. The same question had come up about how long to keep the record open.
Jeff had said, "Let's make it two weeks." So I channeled him: "How about fourteen days?" The hearings officer said, "Why?"
"Because we're representing ourselves," I told her, "while the claimant has real attorneys to do the work. It takes time to go online and dig up case law when you don't have access to legal documents like lawyers do. We might be able to get some help on this from a lawyer, but that isn't certain."
The claimant's attorney leaned over toward me in a collegial manner, showing me his Blackberry's calendar. "Here," he pointed, "how about we split the difference and make it ten days – that'll give you until the 28th to get your submission in."
"Sounds fine," I told him, thinking, My first attorney to attorney negotiation went fine! And I'm not even out of law school! (Nor, in it.)