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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Federal law trumps state measure in the Columbia River Gorge

Associated Press

HOOD RIVER, Ore. – Landowners in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area can’t use Oregon’s new property rights measure to escape local land-use laws, a state judge has ruled.

Approved by voters in November, Measure 37 promised compensation or development rights when planning rules restrict land value. Two landowners have asked Hood River County for waivers under Measure 37 to subdivide their lots. County commissioners are scheduled to hear the first of those claims later this month.

Measure 37, however, includes an exception for local laws “to the extent the land-use regulation is required to comply with federal law.”

That comes into play in the scenic area, which was created by Congress and managed by a two-state commission, often through land-use laws administered by counties.

Ordinances adopted by the counties to meet the requirements of a management plan amount to federal law, Circuit Judge John Kelly ruled Wednesday.

Kelly’s decision was a victory for the state, the Columbia River Gorge Commission and the nonprofit Friends of the Gorge. The judge rejected the argument of Ross Day, lawyer for the two landowners and Oregonians in Action, the group that sponsored Measure 37.

Day said the gorge management plan shouldn’t be considered federal law because it exceeds what Congress intended.

Both sides expect the ruling to be appealed and eventually to reach the Oregon Supreme Court.

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