SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled that dwellings can be rebuilt on farmlands regardless of when the original buildings were removed.

The court overturned a decision by Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals that ruled dwellings could only be rebuilt if property taxes were imposed on the structures within the past five years, the Capital Press reported Wednesday.

The case stems from a dispute that occurred after a landowner sought to rebuild three houses that were demolished decades ago on farmland near Florence.

Lane County officials allowed the construction based on a 2013 state bill that eased the replacement process for farmland buildings under the land use statute.

"The whole purpose of the bill was to allow property owners to replace dwellings that had been removed, in some cases, decades earlier," Dave Hunnicutt said, the executive director of Oregonians In Action, a property rights group.

Landwatch Lane County, a farmland preservation group, challenged the action, leading the land board to reverse the county's decision.

Following the appeals court decision, the group said the court has misconstrued the land use statute, which could circumvent the state planning goal of preserving farmland.

"I would call it devastating for Oregon farmland," Lauri Segel-Vaccher said, the group's legal analyst.

Counties may require very little evidence that a building was at a certain location, Segel-Vaccher said. The group has not yet decided whether to challenge the decision before the Oregon Supreme Court, she said.

Hunnicutt said it's unlikely that a significant number of buildings will be constructed under the ruling because landowners must still demonstrate the existence of the dwellings.

"Most rural land is on parcels that have never had farm dwellings," said Hunnicutt.

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Information from: Capital Press, http://www.capitalpress.com/washington