Support building to restore Oregon's land-use image


Once, Oregon was known for the way it protected farms and forests while it carefully planned where to put all the newcomers.

But after three decades of growth and top-dollar bickering, a cross section of Oregon's leadership wants to restore the state's visionary reputation.

Support is building to revive a "Big Look" task force that had begun reviewing Oregon's land policies before the Legislature yanked its funding.

Some feel the passage of Measure 49 this month did little to settle the larger orderly growth issue.

Measure 49 cuts back development allowed under Measure 37, approved three years earlier, but friction remains.

"Oh, no, I think all it's done is bring temporary relief to one area of tension that surfaced finally with Measure 37: the ability to put homes on farmland and (forest) resource land," said Mike Thorne, the task force chairman and a former legislator and Port of Portland director. "But the core symptoms have not changed."

Failing to address those problems will lead to trouble, Thorne said.

"The 'Big Look' was never exclusively about Measure 37 or Measure 49," agreed task force member David Bragdon. "It's a much broader type of effort."

Under Gov. Tom McCall, Oregon adopted statewide planning goals and created the Department of Land Conservation and Development. The system survived half a dozen assaults before property rights activists spurred the passage of Measure 37 in 2004.

Measure 37 allowed property to seek compensation or a waiver from land-use rules if regulations imposed after they bought their land reduced its value and restricted its use.

A flood of 7,500 claims, many for large subdivisions on farm and forest land, alarmed conservationists, farm groups and Democratic legislators and resulted in Measure 49.

It allows claimants to build a few homes but prohibits commercial and industrial development and large subdivisions.

These days the "Big Look" group has more friends than ever.

The governor invoked it while celebrating the passage of Measure 49. Newspapers have called for its restoration as have partisans on both sides.

It leaves force members feeling guardedly optimistic. They are hearing they will be allowed to finish the job of recommending changes to the once-renowned land-use planning system.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski's office says funding will be included in a Department of Land Conservation and Development budget request that will be presented to the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee Dec. 7.

The February legislative session could restore the finding estimated to be about $350,000 to $400,000.

The 10 members - all appointed by the governor and legislative leaders - include elected officials, business owners, a timber company counsel and a property rights attorney.

In July the group issued preliminary findings of widespread dissatisfaction with the state's land-use system.

The task force concluded the system had contained sprawl but had become heavy-handed and unnecessarily complicated.

The land-use system, the task force reported, no longer reflected a state that had grown by — million people and revised its resource-based economy.

It called the state's land-use system "much heralded but outdated."

"Oregon's planning system should have a more explicit recognition of private property rights and develop specific ways to balance that value with others," the task force said in preliminary findings. Some felt that the task force funding was cut because the group was headed in the wrong direction.

"I think there's some very zealous advocates for the existing system who don't want to have any questions raised about it, "said Bragdon. "I'm not going to name names."

But legislators insisted it was the timing, not the content.

State Rep. Mary Nolan, D-Portland, co-chairwoman of Ways and Means, said, "Chances are pretty strong" that funding will be restored."

Share This Story