An Oregon land-use board recently struck down a proposed destination resort near Ashland on the grounds that Jackson County failed to follow its own laws.

An Oregon land-use board recently struck down a proposed destination resort near Ashland on the grounds that Jackson County failed to follow its own laws.

The Land Use Board of Appeals found the county Board of Commissioners erred in approving the resort on 245 acres owned by Dom Provost because more than 10 years had passed since the county had last dealt with the proposed $80 million project, which includes a golf course, hotel, villas and other residences.

LUBA said the county's land development ordinance provides only a three-year deadline for submitting an updated application, with the possibility of receiving a one-year extension.

"There is a fatal problem with the county's purported 'interpretation' of the above-quoted LDO sections," the LUBA opinion stated. "The county has not interpreted the quoted LDO sections, it has attempted to rewrite them to address a problem that the drafters apparently did not expressly anticipate."

The county argued that it departed from its own language because opponents of the proposed resort made it impossible for Provost to comply with the timing requirements.

LUBA said that argument is "dubious at best."

If the LUBA ruling isn't appealed, Provost will have to start the process over again for his long-held dream of building a destination resort just south of Ashland. He will also have to adhere to tougher new rules for resorts.

The Clear Springs Resort is proposed on land between Highway 66 and Interstate 5 about a mile south of Ashland. Provost scaled back original plans for an 18-hole course to nine holes. He also has a Measure 37 claim on the property that waives many land-use restrictions that were placed on the property after he received title to it in 1969.

The land is currently zoned for exclusive farm use.

During the 1990s, Provost's proposal was challenged in the courts and at LUBA. In 1995, LUBA found eight problems with approval of the resort, sending the matter back to the county.

During the intervening years, Provost resolved water rights problems and then last year submitted a modified version of the application to commissioners, who approved it last October.

Ashland resident Chris Skrepetos, who has opposed the resort for more than 20 years, put the blame for the ruling on the commissioners, who have lost several high-profile land-use decisions recently with the state and the courts.

"(The board) doesn't obey its own laws," he said. "It's not only a disservice to the citizens but a disservice to the developers themselves."

Skrepetos, who predicted the county would lose with LUBA last October, said commissioners have blamed the state for making complex land-use laws, but he said it was the county itself that wrote the ordinance describing the deadlines.

County counsel Doug McGeary said he thought the commissioners were on solid ground in allowing Provost's application to continue beyond the deadlines.

"There is significant case law that says counties are given deference in interpreting their own statutes," he said.

McGeary said the LUBA decision basically said the county added words that don't exist in its land-use ordinance, but the county thought it had the discretion to interpret its own laws.

McGeary defended the county's record, noting that plenty of land-use decisions are made on a daily basis that aren't challenged. He said high-profile cases also tend to be more complex, providing more avenues for appeals.

Moreover, the state has created rules and regulations that are filled with complexities. He said the complicated rules make it difficult to create a land-use decision that can't be challenged.

"LUBA has some fairly high standards that you have to go through," said McGeary.

Neither Dom Provost nor his attorney, Mike Connors of Portland, could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.