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Carman-HistoricThe City of Lake Oswego added the Carman House to its inventory of historic landmarks in 1990, pursuant to Statewide Planning Goal 5.  The oldest extant residential structure within the City, the Carman House is considered a rare and valuable example of a territorial Oregon residence.  The owners at the time, Mr. Wilmot and Mr. Gregg filed an objection to the designation.  However, since the city could designate a property as historic without a property owner’s consent, the property was designated over the owners’ objections.

Justice Antonin Scalia passed away last week after almost 30 years as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Although his impact was felt throughout the country, it is worth pausing to look at how he affected the land use system more broadly and, in particular, Oregon’s system.

Red barrierState ex rel Dept. of Transp. v. Alderwoods (Oregon), Inc., 2015 WL 9589848, --- P.3d --- (2015)

The Oregon Supreme Court held that a government’s use of its police powers to eliminate or limit access to a property for public safety reasons is not compensable under Article I, Section 18 of the Oregon Constitution, so long as reasonable access to the abutting public right-of-way is maintained. The Court summarized its holding in the following proposition:

Oregon Coast beach sandIf, as expected, climate change and sea level rise become a bigger threat to private property in the 21st century, ancient doctrines about boundary changes, including accretion, reliction and avulsion will become increasingly important.  On August 14, 2014, the Oregon Supreme Court explained its view of accretion in Sea River Properties, LLC v. Parks, 355 Or 831 (2014).

The case arose just north of Rockaway Beach along the Nehalem River and involved grants of land that went back over a century and a half.  There was a complex geologic and factual background, but the question the court had to answer was who owned land that had generally built up west of the defendant’s land and north of the plaintiff’s land between the old bed of the Nehalem river (before the federal government built a jetty) and the ocean.  The Oregon Supreme Court chose not to exercise its ability to re-weigh the facts and, relying on the facts found by the trial court, concluded that “accreted land belongs to the upland owner where the accretion began,” even if it eventually grows in front of the property of another.

In itself, this case is not particularly surprising or interesting, but, as climate change continues to affect our world, these cases will only become more common and it behooves practitioners to understand the application of the common law property doctrines involved in shifting boundary lines.

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