For the third time in less than a decade, Oregon voters will be asked just how much forest and farmland should remain off-limits to developers.
Measure 49, appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot, would scale back Oregon's landmark land-use law, known as Measure 37, which voters approved in 2004 to soften the state's notoriously strict environmental and zoning rules.
Approved by 61 percent of Oregon voters, the law compels local and state officials to compensate property owners when land-use laws reduce their property values or waive the regulations.
However, those seeking to amend Measure 37 said when voters three years ago approved the law they had no idea that statewide 7,562 claims representing billions of dollars would emerge &
574 in Jackson County alone, covering about 60,000 acres.
Among them is a $13.8 million claim by Joseph Daunhauer to subdivide about seven-square-miles north of Dead Indian Memorial Road near Ashland. Another sought by Rocky Younger to divide 958 acres into one-acre lots for single-family homes.
"While Measure 37 was billed as helping the little guy add a house a two for his family or to fund his retirement, what it's really opened the door for is a lot of massive housing subdivisions and industrial-commercial claims for development of strip malls and big box stores," said Liz Kaufman, the Yes on Measure 49 campaign manager.
Supporters, including Gov. Ted Kulongoski, said modifying the law will make it easier for small landowners who want to build a handful of homes on their property. Moreover, agricultural interests said the measure still will protect the state's rich farmlands by limiting large-scale development.
Crafted by the Democrat-led state Legislature after hours of often-contentious public hearings and months of closed-door negotiations, Measure 49 would continue to ban commercial development, but allow landowners to build up to three homes on designated high-value forest, farmland and groundwater-restricted property.
But landowners wishing to build between four and 10 homes on non-prime lands would be required to demonstrate a loss of value from land-use regulations that is equal to or greater than the value of the number of homes they want to build, under the proposal.
Among those supporting the initiative along with Kulongoski are former Democratic Govs. John Kitzhaber and Barbara Roberts, and Republican Vic Atiyeh.
Still, critics deride Measure 49 as the latest effort to erode property-rights protections. Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker is among those who said it's an affront to voters who approved Measure 37 overwhelmingly, and in 2000 approved Measure 7, which was later struck down by the courts.
"The Legislature is basically telling the voters that they know what's better for them," said Walker, an outspoken critic of Democratic lawmakers' efforts to amend Measure 37. "What they're really saying to voters is, 'We'll tell you what you can and can't have.'"
Additionally, Oregonians in Action, the property-rights group that wrote Measure 37, worries a rewrite could throw into legal question many of the lawsuits that Measure 37 claimants have already paid thousands of dollars to initiate.
State Rep. Bill Garrard of Klamath Falls was among Republicans who opposed giving voters a shot at amending the property-compensation law. Garrard, the House GOP's point man on land-use issues, said he equates property-rights with civil rights.
"What part of 61 percent did they not understand," Garrard said, referencing Measure 37's approval, after the rewrite language cleared the Legislature. "That is a pretty strong message that (voters) value property-rights."
covers government for the Ashland Daily Tidings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New measure to challenge 37