Oregon voters will be asked on the Nov. 6 ballot just how much forest and farmland should remain off-limits to developers.




The Ashland chapter of the League of Women Voters will hold a town hall forum to discuss Measure 49 at 7 p.m. today at the Ashland City Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.




State Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, and Jackson County Commissioner Dave Gilmour will discuss why voters ought to approve Measure 49 at the event and state Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, and land-use attorney Chris Kauble will discuss why the referendum should be defeated.




The proposal 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, Measure 37 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 say when voters three years ago approved the law they had no idea that thousands of claims representing billions of dollars would emerge.




Supporters, including Gov. Ted Kulongoski, say modifying the law will make it easier for small landowners who want to build a handful of homes on their property. Moreover, agricultural interests say the measure still will protect the state's rich farmlands by limiting large-scale development.




Critics, however, decry Measure 49 as the latest effort to erode property-rights protections. Jackson County Commissioner Jack Walker is among those who say 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.




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.




Already, the Arlington, Va.-based Nature Conservancy has donated $1.2 million to the Yes on 49 campaign while the timber industry and its executives have contributed $915,500 to effort to defeat the referendum, according to campaign finance watchdog Democracy Reform Oregon.




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.




covers the state Legislature for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.