Campaign for new Oregon property rights measure begins


Gov. Ted Kulongoski kicked off a campaign Thursday for a November ballot measure that would curb development allowed under a property compensation law voters approved in 2004.

Ballot Measure 49 is a rewrite of the law known as Measure 37 and would allow some property owners to build up to three homes but curb larger subdivisions and industrial development.

"We are not seeking to repeal Measure 37. We are working to fix Measure 37," said Kulongoski. "We need to protect our valuable farm, forest and water resources that are part of what makes Oregon so unique."

Under Measure 37, government officials must compensate property owners if land-use regulations &

such as zoning ordinances introduced after the property owner bought the land &

reduces its value, or allow them to develop.

Measure 37 was passed because of many Oregonians felt existing land-use laws restricted landowners rights. But the property compensation law has resulted in more than 150 lawsuits, and more than $15 billion in claims against governments for compensation.

Opponents of Measure 49 say the proposal guts the original law and runs counter to what voters intended when they approved the property compensation measure three years ago.

They also say the ballot title approved by the Legislature in a vote along party lines is biased, emphasizing the preservation of farm and forest land but soft-pedaling new restrictions.

"Our challenge," said Ross Day, an attorney with Oregonians in Action, a property rights group that opposes the proposal, "is to get people to sit down and read the measure."

The ballot measure would expedite Measure 37 claims for property owners who want to build between one and three houses.

Those wishing to build between four and 10 dwellings would have to demonstrate loss of value from land-use laws equal to or greater than the value of the number of homes they want to build.

Claimants who want to build more must have those developments approved by state and local agencies. High value forest, farmland and groundwater limited areas would be off-limits for development of more than three homes.

Day said Measure 49 could increase fees for Measure 37 claimants and nullify the efforts of some property owners who have already invested significant time and money to develop their land under the existing law.

"It's like paying the school-yard bully to get your lunch back," Day said of the measure.

But supporters of the ballot measure say the proposal creates fairness in Oregon's strict land-use planning system and will protect neighbors from unwanted, harmful development.

Kulongoski said the ballot measure was a reflection of months of public hearings and testimony from hundreds of landowners who urged lawmakers to reform the property compensation law to protect existing property owners.

Dick Day, a landowner from rural Yamhill County said he voted for Measure 37 because he wanted to build a few houses on his land to fund his retirement. But when one of his neighbors filed a claim to build 112-house subdivision, he said he realized the law needed to be changed.

"Measure 37 turned out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing," said Day who supports Measure 49.

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