Democratic Governor of Oregon Undermines Democratic Process

Filed under:Politics,Priorities,Wacky Oregon — posted by Anwyn on February 6, 2007 @ 8:10 pm

Oregon’s Democractic governor seeks to suspend the operation of a democratically voter-enacted law while he and his party in the legislature figure out how they’re going to abolish it. See, here in Oregon we have a lot of beautiful, scenic land. We also have a lot of garden-variety farmland that may or may not be useful to the landowner as farmland, but THAT’S BESIDE THE POINT, PEON! The point is, it’s scenic, and houses mar the scenery. So no, you may not simply put buildings on your land, willy-nilly. Or sell it to people who will put buildings on it. The government knows what the land needs, and buildings are not in the approved list.

At least, that’s how it was until Measure 37, which basically says that if a land-use restriction enacted after you buy property restricts your ability to do with your property as you wish, the government must compensate you for the loss of “fair market value” caused by the regulation or else exempt you from the regulation.

Not surprisingly, there are many, many claims for compensation and/or permission to enact changes that would otherwise violate the land-use restrictions. Even people who once thought the government should be restricting people’s use of their own property have now suddenly realized that they could lose money as well:

Gary Willis, a third-generation pear grower in Hood River County, says he initially liked land-use rules meant to reserve the country for commercial farming.

That was before he competed against cheap, imported fruit. Before he wondered whether his son could make a profit on the family’s 300-acre orchard.

You mean … you liked the restrictions until they affected you?

Never fear, Kulongoski is on the case. You pear farmers don’t know what’s good for you, and all these Measure 37 claims are bad for the land. We’ll just ease them off to the side of our desks until we can come up with a way to overturn a law enacted by popular ballot, otherwise known as “democratically.”

Welcome to Oregon! State motto: It’s our land, we just let you live on it. Barely.


  1. Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

    Land-use laws in Oregon date back to before the Forest Practices Act in the late 70’s, which guaranteed several things; appropriate use of land-development so as to preserve necessary tree boundaries, fish-bearing streams, and prevent one of the really big hazards out here, which is erosion/mudslides. Some of the restrictions were really onerous – having to take appropriate precautions against befouling streambeds housing endangered wildlife, or leaving enough plant-life on a landscape to prevent it from sliding away in the next big rain storm, just to name a couple of examples.

    Measure 37 was largely backed by people that wanted to sell zoned farm or timber land in close proximity to urban areas for development; urban-development subdivisions are worth way more than an equivalent area of farmland, and the idea was that if you can’t subdivide your land and parcel it off, then somebody ought to compensate you for your loss. Or at least that was the idea.

    It’s not that simple, though. In practical terms, what it means is that as urban areas get bigger, communities are forced with the decision of zoning into urban areas places that might not be suited for somebody’s building(s), or pay millions of dollars to people who are trying to make a quick buck by getting paid not to develop their property. It gets even worse when you’re talking about idiots who buy up areas that should never be zoned for housing, use out-of-state architects and land surveyors that know nothing of local conditions, contractors from outside the local area that don’t understand how to put up buildings in this area (and no, that’s not as simple as you might think), and then whine when their multimillion dollar subdivision that they built on a sandbar goes sliding away when the tides and rivers shift it out from underneath their buildings. Oregon has laws against development on parts of the coast and in parts of the mountainous areas of this state for a reason – it’s stupid to build there.

    All in all, Measure 37 wasn’t thought through far enough for potential effects. Like Measure 5 in the 80’s, it’s got a far-reaching effect, and a lot of it wasn’t what they saw coming.

    Comment by wg — February 7, 2007 @ 9:03 am

  2. I have no trouble believing that M.37 wasn’t well thought through. I suspect that a lot of ballot measures, here and elsewhere, aren’t. But blanket policies like the “urban growth boundary” that we have up here are also not well thought through and absolutely ensure that people will continue to speculate in all the land they can possibly get their hands on and that housing is artificially inflated in price and artificially crowded in placement. Most of these M.37 claims they’re putting aside are not coming from out-of-staters who try to build junk on a sandbar; they’re coming from average owners of farmland in the valley who want to make money off their land in ways other than farming. And the blanket-policy folks do want as much land as possible to remain farmland or completely undeveloped.

    Comment by Anwyn — February 7, 2007 @ 9:57 am

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