Land-use dilemma may go to voters
SALEM (AP) — Oregon lawmakers advanced a bill Thursday that would give voters a shot at amending the state’s controversial property rights law.
Vot er s wou ld c ho o s e between a measure that would curb large-scale development but allow an expedited process for property owners who want to build no more than three homes and the existing process in which most counties and the state have ceded development rights under the property rights law known as Measure 37.
A party-line vote in the Joint Committee on Land Use Fairness broke a nearly four-month stalemate during which the panel heard testimony from hundreds of people and held over a dozen public meetings in an attempt to fix the voter passed initiative that has divided Oregonians and the legislature.
Lawmakers said the new proposal would allow voters to decide just what they meant in 2004, when they passed the measure that requires governments to pay owners for property value lost from land-use restrictions passed after the property was purchased. From page A1
If governments don’t pay — and Measure 37 claims against state and local governments have already reached over $10 billion — they must waive the restriction and allow development.
“A lot of people wanted a right to develop their property and we still have that in this document,” said Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, a member of the committee. But “we made a decision. We are not going to have major subdivisions in our state out in our farm and forest ground. That is not what Oregonians voted for in my opinion.”
Republicans who voted against the legislation said it guts the voter passed land-use law. They predicted that if the bill is sent to voters, it would be rejected in favor of the current method of processing and approving claims.
“The only conclusion I have is that the effort behind this is to repeal ballot Measure 37,” said Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood. “It saddens me and I think it’s an unfortunate turn and one of the worst efforts to overturn the will of the voters.”
But supporters of the bill said the current system offers no recourse for neighbors who may be effected by large scale development adjacent to their property.
The bill would allow landowners who want to build up to three homes to qualify for a so-called “express lane” — putting their Measure 37 claims on a fast track. Supporters of the bill estimate are that up to two-thirds of the roughly 7,000 existing claims would fall into this category.
Property owners who think they lost more than the value of three home sites due to property regulations enacted after their land purchase would be allowed to apply to build up to ten homes — with a statewide maximum of 20 home sites per claimant — but would have to go through a more rigorous valuation process to prove their loss.
This option would not be available for some properties that are entirely high-value farm land, or in areas where groundwater is limited or in critical supply.