Racing to beat a 90-day deadline, Bill Meeker decided to fast track his property rights claim with the state in February.

Racing to beat a 90-day deadline, Bill Meeker decided to fast track his property rights claim with the state in February.

Unfortunately for the 82-year-old Central Point resident, he hasn't heard a word since about his application to subdivide his 5-acre lot.

"I'm not getting anyplace with them at all," said Meeker. "I don't know what to do about it."

Meeker was one of 330 Jackson County residents who filed with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development to get some relief from land-use laws.

They were able to file under Measure 49, which sharply limits the impacts from Measure 37, the property rights law passed in 2004 that resulted in 600 claims filed in Jackson County on 60,000 acres.

Property owners — many of them elderly — with Measure 37 claims from both the state and the county started receiving letters from DLCD in January advising them that they had 90 days to take advantage of Measure 49.

They needed to choose from a fast-track option to build up to three homes, or a more difficult process to build up to 10 homes, or prove they had made sufficient progress in the development to be considered legally vested.

Of the applications received by the state, 4,628 took the so-called express route and only 200 opted for the more complicated process of proving they are legally vested.

John Renz, DLCD regional representative, said Meeker's application was received on Feb. 19 and he was the 127th person to file.

"He got it in on time," Renz said.

The application process could take about a year to complete, Renz said, adding some applications already have been approved.

Renz said his department spends a lot of time reviewing each application before it is approved.

"Measure 49 is now the biggest part of our department," he said.

The state expects to finish approving the last of the applications by Dec. 31, 2010.

Renz said he received a call from an elderly woman in Josephine County who worried she didn't have enough life left to await the state's decision.

"She said, 'We're really old people,'" he said.

Meeker said time is running out for him, too, because he was hoping to sell off one of his parcels for his retirement.

"If they keep messing around long enough, I'll be entitled to some welfare," he said. "But I really don't want that."

Dealing with the government has been a long and difficult process for Meeker, who originally filed a Measure 37 claim with Jackson County.

"When I first walked in, they said there would be no problem with it," he said. "That was almost four years ago, and I'm still waiting."

Since then, Meeker has spent money to get his property platted and surveyed.

When the state created the express process, Meeker said he had his doubts but remained hopeful.

"'Fast track' sounds like they were going to get off the stick," he said.

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