The Jim Watts Story.
When Jim Watts purchased a 40-acre property in Deschutes County, Oregon in 1986 for $42,500,
he thought he was making a sound investment in the future. He planned to build his retirement
home on the land.
Then, in 1993, Watts seriously injured his back while on the job as a heavy equipment
operator. After several operations, it was clear he would never do heavy manual labor again.
Just 42 years of age at the time, Watts needed to find a new line of work. He decided to sell
one of the three parcels of his property and use the proceeds for vocational training.
It seemed like a good plan since a realtor had appraised each parcel at about $250,000.
After getting an offer for the parcel in 1994, Watts was shocked to learn that the county
would not issue a building permit. One year earlier, the county had changed the regulations
prohibiting any building on private property zoned as exclusive forest use. The county had
assured Watts before he purchased the property that this designation would never be a problem
for Watts in developing his land.
Since the property was zoned for forest use, Watts applied for grants from an Oregon forestry
program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's forestry program to plant a tree farm.
But forestry officials rejected his application, saying that his sagebrush-covered property
was too arid to support trees.
Eager to resolve his problem, Watts met with county officials to determine what options were
open to him. The officials told him that he could reapply to have his property re-zoned.
He spent $3,500 on the lengthy re-zoning process. But in 1998, the county denied his request.
Because of the zoning restriction, the value of Watts's property is now only $2,000.
Things have been tough for Watts these last six years. Because of his age, back injury and
the loss of a right hand in another accident, he says it is very difficult to find a decent
Source: Oregonians In Action
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