11/08/2007: "County Policy Reversed By Fed Law"
(Deputy Prosecutor Karen Vedder & Planning Director Ron Hendrickson watch Virginia Norgaard address Council -file photo)
The County has received a set back in a lawsuit to stop property from being divided if new, and more precise methods show it to be less than indicated in recorded county records. As previously reported , the case was started when Richard Durhack and Virginia Norgaard filed a law suit against San Juan County after they were prevented from proceeding with a property division. The County had informed them that there property could no longer be divided, since new GIS surveying technologies indicated they had a tad less land than recorded surveys used to make the county land use maps showed. (the old “Aliquot” system did not factoring the curvature of the earth)
The outcome of the case will allow others who had been informed that land they owned was not as large as shown on County records, to use the original survey, when, and if, they apply for land use permits.
The impact of the case had been predicted by County Assessor Paul Dossett to result in very few land divisions. He has also said that it was basically a case of fairness, and urged the Council to retain the previous acreage designations as shown on the county land use maps.
The County Council had disagreed, and allowed the Prosecutor’s office to defend the County decision in court, but the County lost the case, and the Prosecutor informed the Council they had asked for additional clarification on the Court’s oral ruling, and they recommended that if the Court continued to find against the County, that the Council should appeal the decision.
Some on the Council were hesitant to continue the battle, citing concerns of fairness to landowners who had been told by the County (in some cases prior to the purchase) their land could be divided, and now were being told they could not. Councilman Bob Myhr was in support of fighting the law suit, saying on more than one occasion that “we already have enough lots”.
In response to the Prosecutors request for review, the Judge came back with a federal law (Survey of Public Lands 43 USCS 752) that appeared, to some, to have ended the discussion. The Prosecutor’s office then requested an executive session on Tuesday to present the information to the County Council.
Since the public and the press were excluded from the meeting, it is not know how the discussion went, but after the meeting Councilman Ranker announced that the case had been discussed, and that the council had voted (five-to-one) to accept the Courts ruling, and to not appeal the case. The Guardian was told that Ranker had made the motion, and that Councilman Myhr had voted against the motion.