Pine Creek landowners sue McCarty

Aug. 15—Two couples who own property along Pine Creek west of Baker City have sued David McCarty, who bought land in the area in 2020 and installed a locked gate across the road leading to the couples' properties.

James and Sharen Sanders, and Thomas and Betty Ann Lager, filed the suit in late July in Baker County Circuit Court. Each couple is seeking a monetary award of at least $250,000 as compensation for what they contend is the loss of enjoyment of their properties.

They are represented by attorney Anne Cohen of the Betts, Patterson & Mines law firm in Portland.

The defendants are McCarty, Joelleen Linstrom, who lives with McCarty and is described in the lawsuit as his agent, as well as three companies in which McCarty has an ownership interest.

Linstrom said on Monday morning, Aug. 15 that she couldn't comment on the lawsuit.

Tom Lager said he needed to talk with the other defendants before commenting publicly.

McCarty is the plaintiff in another lawsuit related to the Pine Creek Road, which he filed in April 2021 with Baker County as the defendant.

McCarty is seeking either a ruling that the disputed section of the Pine Creek Road that crosses his property is not a public right-of-way, or, if a jury concludes there is legal public access on the road, that the extent of the access be defined and that the county pay him $730,000 to compensate for the lost value of his land due to the right-of-way.

McCarty's lawsuit is pending, with court hearings tentatively scheduled for Oct. 31 and the week of Dec. 19.

In response to McCarty's lawsuit, the Baker County Board of Commissioners has been pursuing a legal action to declare the Pine Creek Road, including the section across the property that McCarty bought in September 2020, as a public route.

Commissioners are scheduled to approve a resolution related to declaring the road as public during their meeting Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 9 a.m. at the Courthouse, 1995 Third St.

New lawsuitThe Sanderses and Lagers contend in the lawsuit that McCarty and Linstrom have infringed on their ability to enjoy their properties by installing the locked gate, setting up cameras "to monitor the attempted use of Pine Creek Road," and "attempted privatization of Pine Creek Road."

The couples are each seeking monetary damages of at least $250,000.

They are also asking for a judgment that confirms that both couples can access their properties "without notice to or permission from any Defendant and without intimidation, harassment, assault, or threat of interference."

The couples also are asking that a judge issue a warrant to the Baker County Sheriff mandating that the sheriff remove the gate and the cameras McCarty installed.

Among the parcels that the Lagers and Sanderses own are ones completely surrounded by McCarty's property. The Pine Creek Road is the only vehicular access to their properties, according to the lawsuit.

"Defendants ignored the real and private property rights of the Sanders and the Lagers, even though Defendants knew or should have known that the Sanders and the Lagers relied solely on Pine Creek Road for ingress and egress to their respective properties," the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs contend in the lawsuit that the defendants, who have logged the McCarty property, also felled trees on the Sanders property, and removed padlocks the Sanderses had installed on their cabin and replaced them with other locks, and blocked vehicle access to the couple's cabin with "one or more large obstacles in the driveway."

"They also installed new boundary posts on the Sanders Property and around the Sanders Cabin and 'no trespassing' signs that claimed the Sanders Property belonged to McCarty," the lawsuit contends.

The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of financial abuse and elder abuse, stating that due to their ages and to Sharen Sanders' disability, they are both "vulnerable people as defined in ORS 124.100(e)."

James Sanders is 69 and Sharen Sanders is 81 and legally blind, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also claims financial abuse and elder abuse against Tom Lager, who is 68, due to his age.

The lawsuit claims "McCarty and the other Defendants knew or should have known that interference with Plaintiffs' real property, timber, and personal property would inflict severe mental or emotional distress and Plaintiffs are entitled to damages for this infliction."

Plaintiffs expressed concerns during April public hearingBoth Lagers and James Sanders were among the 19 people who objected to McCarty's actions, including installing the locked gate, during a public hearing called by county commissioners on April 19, 2022, in Baker City.

During that hearing Tom Lager told commissioners that he and his wife own 11 parcels in the Pine Creek area, as well as the Timber Tiger Lodge rental cabin. Tom Lager called Pine Creek "the most beautiful canyon in Baker Valley."

"We love it — it's our backyard," Tom Lager said on April 19. "We enjoyed that country so much that we have purchased those parcels."

He also said that since McCarty bought the 1,560 acres, Lager was unable, for the first time in 13 years, to bring to Pine Creek a young hunter who has a terminal illness for a guided hunt through the Hunt of a Lifetime program.

Lager accused McCarty of "greed" and of trying "to take it away from the public."

"They don't own the road," Lager said during the April 19 hearing. "They own the 1,560 (acres) they purchased."

Betty Lager said during the hearing that she and her family feel "like we're held hostage" due to the gate McCarty installed, and that since the gate went up the Lagers have used their own property about "one-tenth" as often as before.

During the April 19 hearing, James Sanders told commissioners he first visited Pine Creek, along with Tom Lager, in 1975.

Sanders said he bought a cabin near the Lagers' property in 2002. He said he has spoken with "hundreds" of people in the area since, and although he's reminded a few visitors about not camping on private property that adjoins the road for part of its length, he's never had any vandalism at his cabin or been harassed.

But that wasn't the case, Sanders said, after McCarty bought the property. He said acquaintances of McCarty followed him and his friends after they rode four-wheelers to his cabin.

"It's just crazy," Sanders said. "They have no right to do what they're doing. Stop them."