Just as those of us who opposed the dismantling of Oregon’s land use laws predicted, Measure 37 has turned out to be a nightmare.
People voted for it because they thought little old ladies would finally be able to build a family homestead on acreage put off-limits by rigid zoning restrictions.
Some of that is going on. Which is fine. I don’t have a problem with putting a single home on land that turned into “exclusive farm use” after a couple bought it as “rural residential.” But I do object to putting a pumice mine and geothermal generating plant in the Newberry Crater National Monument, as a Portland man wants to do.
Ted Shroeder, who lives in northeast Oregon’s Grande Ronde Valley, says that he voted for Measure 37. He also says:
If you polled a lot of people who voted for Measure 37, none of them voted for these mega-projects that are going to create multimillionaires. … People got bamboozled, they got suckered in. … I kick myself for being so naïve.
A neighbor of Shroeder wants to build 335 homes on 1,400 acres of prime farmland. Not exactly the little old lady situation that Oregonians in Action deceptively promulgated in their 2004 political advertising. Shroeder adds:
The way Measure 37 was presented to the public, prior to the election, they paraded the little old lady who had 20 acres in the ads, they had (her) saying, ‘Well, my retirement was going to (rely on the) 20 acres, and I was going to sell five acres, and the land-use laws won’t let me.’
… The other ad had to do with families who had farmed, say, a 300-acre parcel for a lot of years and (regulations prevented their children from putting) a house on five acres so they could stay on the farm. That was the appeal they made to the public.
… There are people like me who aren’t sophisticated voters, who don’t read the fine print in the voter’s pamphlets. In my naiveté, I thought I was voting to help relieve those sorts of situations.
Measure 37 is pitting neighbor against neighbor. Some Yamhill County residents thought they were moving to the country when they bought rural land. Now a Measure 37 claimant wants to build a 30-acre subdivision next to them. The rights of the many are getting trampled by the few.
A Hillsboro couple want to keep farming on property that has been in the family for over 100 years. Now a Measure 37 claimant wants to put 54 homes on 54 acres next to their land. They’re understandably worried that residents of this subdivision will object to farm noise, smells, and chemical sprays.
Scariest of all, property rights zealots are trying to export Measure 37-like initiatives to other western states. These efforts are mostly funded by out of state sources, as this excellent article by a concerned Montanan, Ray Ring, points out. Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington are in danger of joining the Oregon nightmare.
The initiatives have titles like “Protect Our Homes,” “The Home Owners Protection Effort” and “People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land”—as if the government is about to come in with bulldozers to sweep everyone off their property.
But here’s how the initiatives would work: If you could fit 20 houses on your land, plus a junkyard, a gravel mine and a lemonade stand, and the government limits you to just six houses and lemonade, then the government would have to pay you whatever profit you might have made on the unbuilt 14 houses, junkyard and mine. If the government can’t or won’t pay you, then it would have to drop the regulations.
Measure 37 has hit close to our home. Leroy Laack wants to put 80 homes on 215 rolling acres next to the Spring Lake Estates area where we live. He shares ownership of the property with other people who don’t qualify for a Measure 37 claim.
But one of the quirks of Measure 37 is that if Laack were to be compensated under this law for supposed lost value owing to a government regulation imposed after he bought it, if he owned a 25% interest the value of the compensation would be based only on his share of the property—one fourth.
However, if land use laws are waived instead of compensation being paid, then 100% of the property can be developed. That doesn’t seem right, but this is how Measure 37 is being interpreted in Oregon.
So even though a majority ownership of the 215 acres near us is by people who don’t qualify for a Measure 37 claim, the single authorized claimant gets to develop the whole damn thing.
Crazy. This is the nightmare of Measure 37. It doesn’t make sense, but, so far, you can’t wake up from it. Hopefully Oregonians will arouse soon and make changes to this disastrous law whose implications few people understood before voting for it.