Measure 49 wins by large majority


Oregon voters decided they went too far three years ago by embracing a far-reaching property rights measure that opened up development on farms and forest lands stifled for the past three decades.

But despite strong support by voters for restoring limits on development of open space with Measure 49, Gov. Ted Kulongoski said he would revive the Big Look Taskforce that began exploring a comprehensive overhaul of land use planning.

"I think they looked and saw what was occurring with Measure 37 and they concluded that wasn't what they were told was going to happen," Kulongoski said of voters who endorsed Measure 49 with 61.4 percent in support after 70 percent of the projected vote had been counted.

Measure 49 was referred to the voters by the Legislature to fix the property rights law known as Measure 37, which voters adopted overwhelmingly in 2004 after decades of anger and resentment over land use laws that won Oregon a green reputation but strictly limited development on farm and forest lands.

Measure 49 would allow rural landowners to build a few homes &

three in most cases and as many as 10 for some &

but curb larger subdivisions and industrial development allowed under the 2004 law.

Despite strong support for this revisions, Kulongoski said he did not think the debate over land use in Oregon would ever be over.

On that score, he was in agreement with the Andrew Miller, CEO of Stimson Lumber Co., which was the leading contributor to the $2 million campaign to defeat Measure 49 and has made Measure 37 claims to allow housing developments on some of its timberlands.

"Land use will be a long and tortured debate in Oregon," Miller said. "It worked really well in Oregon for the period of time the population was flat and stagnant and wasn't really growing.

"The land use advocates can't stop people from moving to Oregon."

Widely seen as a way to restore fairness, Measure 37 allowed property owners to seek compensation if land-use actions imposed after they bought property reduced its value and restricted its use. Governments facing Measure 37 claims must either pay compensation or waive the regulations.

However, the law proved to be unwieldy and confusing, and generated more than 7,500 claims on 750,000 acres, with development proposals ranging from a single house to large subdivisions and compensation claims running into the billions of dollars.

Support for Measure 49 was strongest in counties in the Portland metropolitan area, and weakest in conservative and rural Eastern and Southern Oregon. Rural counties experiencing growing pains, such as Deschutes and Hood River, tended to support the measure.

Jeremiah Baumann, a lobbyist for Environment Oregon and spokesman for Yes on 49, said there was a unique partnership in support of Measure 49 between environmental groups and farm organizations, and as a result the rural-urban split often seen in Oregon elections was less clear-cut.

Supporters of Measure 49 raised more than $4 million to argue that farming and Oregon's quality of life were at stake. Most of the money came from Yamhill County vineyard owner Eric Lemelson and the Nature Conservancy, which usually works behind the scenes buying property to preserve as wildlife habitat.

William G. Robbins, a retired Oregon State University history professor, said land use controls went from having bipartisan support in 1973, when the sweeping Senate Bill 100 was adopted by the Legislature, to a bitterly partisan issue when Democrats controlling the Legislature referred Measure 49 to the voters.

"The public now is alerted to the fact that it is not Dorothy English (the retired woman who was the face of the Measure 37 campaign) wanting to build a few houses on her acreage," said Robbins. "It's the big developers putting in huge projects right in the midst of small residential areas.

"I think people are alarmed about that."

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