Laurel and I were thrilled when we found out today that 1000 Friends of Oregon intends to submit a 2006 ballot initiative that would mitigate the harmful effects of Measure 37, which allows selected property owners to ignore land use laws.
This isn’t an abstract issue of property rights for us. We live in a rural area south of Salem that has been designated a “groundwater limited area.” Expert hydrogeologists have concluded that, by and large, five acres is needed to support a single well. If development becomes denser than that, existing wells will be threatened and could go dry.
Several of our neighbors have had to spend $10-15,000 for a new well because static water levels are dropping in our area. More homes plus less rainfall equals groundwater problems.
This is a real-world equation that property rights zealots such as Oregonians in Action, which sponsored Measure 37, ignore in their abstract fantasy realm where people can do whatever they want with their land without affecting their neighbors.
In “Measure 37 hits close to our home” I wrote about a proposal to build 80 homes and dig 80 wells on 215 rolling acres a short distance from us. That Measure 37 claim now has been approved by both Marion County and the state of Oregon. So, as depressing as it is for us and our neighbors, it looks like this subdivision is going to occur on land that currently is zoned EFU (exclusive farm use).
That land also is part of the south Salem hills groundwater limited area. Dividing 215 acres by 80 homes, we see that the Measure 37 claimants want to put each home on less than three acres—probably considerably less, given that roads and other infrastructure will take up quite a bit of the development.
Marion County will have to decide whether to enforce the groundwater limited area ordinance on this claim. They should, since Measure 37 has an exception for “health and safety” requirements, and water obviously is essential for health.
But there’s a possibility that all of the planned 80 homes could be built, thereby depleting the groundwater that people already living in our community (Spring Lake Estates) rely on for their existing wells.
This is an example of why the 1000 Friends of Oregon initiative is needed so badly. Oregonians in Action isn’t seeing the whole land use picture. Property rights fanatics don’t recognize that everyone has the right to use and enjoy their properties, not just Measure 37 claimants.
Oregonians in Action doesn’t want landowners’ freedoms to be infringed by government without compensation or exemption from land use rules. Well, Laurel and I don’t want our own landowner freedom to be infringed by Measure 37 claimants who don’t want their freedom infringed.
Almost always, life is much more like a circular boulevard than a one-way street. “What goes around comes around.” Oregon’s land use laws have to reflect the evident fact that what I do on my property affects my neighbors, and vice versa.
It isn’t fair to allow one owner unbridled freedom to do whatever he wants with his land, without considering how that is going to affect the ability of other people living nearby to do what they want with their land.
When you live in the country, if you don’t have a well that pumps enough water for your household needs, you’re screwed. You might be able to temporarily run a hose from a neighbor’s house or have water trucked in, but those aren’t lasting solutions.
No working well, no rural home. It’s that simple. There’s no city water department to turn to, no hydrological angel who is going to rescue you from your aridity.
I agree with Cody Hoesly that 1000 Friends of Oregon and other supporters of wise land use planning need to find their own poster child, just as Oregonians in Action did with Dorothy English.
There are lots of people being threatened by Measure 37 claims. Oregon voters need to see their plight before they will support the 1000 Friends initiative.