I've been checking the online Washington Post daily ever since a reporter interviewed us about Measure 37. Today Blaine Harden's article, "Oregon Rethinks Easing Land-Use Limits," appeared.
It points out how far this state has fallen. From being a leader in wise land use planning, Oregon now is used as an example of what not to do.
Cities in Oregon have suburbs that come to a sudden and seemingly arbitrary stop. They slammed into an "urban growth boundary," which for decades prevented townhouses and strip malls from invading the state's farmland and forests.
It was the nation's strictest statewide regime for strangling sprawl -- and a famous example of Oregon's populist pride in creating laws that cut against the grain. This, after all, is a state where you can lawfully kill yourself with a physician's assistance, but you cannot lawfully pump your own gas without the assistance of some guy at a filling station.
A voter initiative in 2004, however, undermined the state's land-use law. With the overwhelming approval of Measure 37, which has been upheld in the courts and is shredding the anti-sprawl status quo, Oregonians unwittingly replaced land-use quirkiness with land-use chaos.
Many here are now suffering from voter's remorse and want the law fixed, according to opinion polls, newspaper pundits and a number of powerful state politicians.
Gov. Kulongoski is quoted, as is David Hunnicutt, president of Oregonians in Action. But naturally our focus was on the mention of us, at the end of the story.
It is the middling land deals under Measure 37 that seem to generate the greatest amount of raw emotion. It happens when a property owner infuriates neighbors by trying to turn a once-protected patch of farmland or forest into a subdivision. In many parts of Oregon, Measure 37 has come to be known as the "Hate Your Neighbor Act."
Brian and Laurel Hines live south of Salem in a housing cluster with limited groundwater. Even under the best conditions, they say, home wells in the neighborhood are at risk of running low. Their neighbor, a farmer with 217 acres, recently proposed building more than 40 houses, each with its own well, on nearby land in the same watershed. The increased demand could tap out the groundwater.
The Hineses and their neighbors have pressured county officials to scale down the proposed subdivision to fewer than 30 houses. But they say it has cost them $20,000 in fees for lawyers and water experts -- and months of work, worry and short nights.
"It is neighbor against neighbor out here," Brian Hines said. "I'd like to think it isn't personal, but it is."