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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 job.
Source: Oregonians In Action