Baker County Commissioners on Wednesday, June 16 took the first step toward potentially declaring as a public road a section of Pine Creek Lane that’s the subject of a lawsuit in which the county is the defendant.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution “declaring the necessity for the legalization of Pine Creek Lane.”

Commission Chairman Bill Harvey emphasized that the resolution is a preliminary action.

“All we’re doing today is establishing a resolution that says that we’re going to put together a survey,” Harvey said. “We are going to have public hearings on anything else after that. And we will notify the public and any landowners in the area that we will be having that meeting over at the Event Center so we have plenty of room for people to come and give their comments.”

The county has not scheduled the meeting Harvey referred to, but the details will be announced.

County attorney Kim Mosier said the resolution begins a process under a state law — Oregon Revised Statute chapter 368 — for designating a county road.

“Today, the purpose of signing this resolution is not to take testimony on the substantive issues regarding the road, this is intended to begin the process by which you will, at a future hearing, get information on the road,” Mosier said.

Attending the meeting through Zoom, Pat Rose asked about the main purpose of the resolution.

Mosier said the process is designed to settle disputes regarding the road, including its location.

Harvey said the county doesn’t yet know how much the survey will cost.

Someone participating in the meeting through Zoom asked if commissioners’ final intent is to declare Pine Creek Lane a public road.

“It depends on the outcome of the hearing,” Mosier said.

The road, which leads from the edge of Baker Valley into the Elkhorn Mountains to Pine Creek Reservoir, runs for about 2 1/2 miles through property that David McCarty bought in September 2020. That month McCarty installed a locked gate across the road at his property boundary, citing his concern that people were trespassing on his property and having campfires despite the high fire danger.

Commissioners voted Sept. 30, 2020, to have a county employee remove that lock, which happened Oct. 1.

On April 30 McCarty sued the county, claiming county officials have failed to produce documents proving that there is a public right-of-way on the road through his property.

McCarty, who requests a jury trial, is seeking either a declaration that the disputed section of the Pine Creek Road is not a public right-of-way, or, if a jury concludes there is legal public access, that the limits of that access be defined and that the county pay him $480,000 to compensate for the lost value of the land based on the legal public access.

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