Oregonians in Action (OIA) conned voters into approving Measure 37 in 2004. Now that the Oregon legislature is on the verge of approving a ballot referral that would fix this horribly flawed law, the OIA con-machine has fired up and is starting to spew more lies.
Consider the ridiculous statement on the OIA web site that HB 3540 "effectively kills Measure 37." That's garbage. What this fix does is kill the ability of claimants to trample the property rights of people already living in the area, since it limits developments in groundwater limited areas to three houses.
The same limit applies to high value farmland and land suitable for a vineyard. Neither Oregon, nor the country as a whole, can afford to outsource our food supply. So HB 3540 will keep alive our state's agriculture industry, which is seriously threatened by the thousands of Measure 37 claims that seek to turn farmland into subdivisions.
Actually, HB 3540 facilitates the Measure 37 process for the claims that voters in 2004 were most concerned about: those that want to build a house or two on land that got rezoned before the owner could start construction. These people now are put on a fast track to Property Rights Heaven.
What HB 3540 does is restore some much-needed balance to Oregon's land use policies. Measure 37 gave away the farm (literally) to individual property owners who were prevented from developing their land by a government regulation.
But there's a whole other group of owners who had their property rights trashed: the community surrounding a Measure 37 claim. An Onward Oregon post, "What if the Measure 37 fix doesn't pass?," does a good job of explaining how the value of a piece of property is largely determined by the familiar real estate adage, location, location, location.
First, and most important, we start by recognizing that most of the value of land is created by other people–not by the owners, but by the people who live nearby. That's why an acre in downtown Portland is worth a lot more than an acre in Podunk–because there are a lot of people in downtown PDX. Most of the value of that acre has nothing to do with how it can be used, but in how it is located. This locational value is all, therefore, created by other people, not the landowner.
Last Sunday Oregonians in Action paid for a full-page ad in the Oregonian. They splashed Dorothy English's photo on the center of the page and spouted their usual misleading verbiage.
The ad says, "Measure 37 gives everybody the exact same right – the right to use the land they could when they bought it." No, it doesn't. Nor should it.
Consider the case of the Measure 37 claim in our neighborhood, a proposed 137 acre subdivision that would put 43 homes (and wells) on groundwater limited farmland. Leroy Laack, the claimant, bought the property in the early 1970s. Oregon's land use laws are the main reason his land is worth a lot more than he paid for it.
As the Onward Oregon article points out, the entire community is responsible for creating an increase in property values. Location, location, location. Up to now, Oregon has remained a great place to live because of our wise land use laws.
Laack, like all citizens of the state, has benefitted from those laws. So it's impossible for him to use the land in the fashion he could when he bought it, because Oregon has changed in many ways since the early 1970s. If all the land between Salem and Laack's claim had been developed into subdivisions during that time, like he wants to do, his property would be worth much less.
But Measure 37 is all about greed, not responsibility. Taking, not giving. Me-me-me, not us-us-us.
Again, HB 3540 is a step toward getting Oregon back on a more balanced track. Laack's neighbors, which includes my wife and me, also want the right to use our land the way we could when we bought it. That includes being able to get water from our wells, a right that Measure 37 subdivisions on groundwater limited land would take away.
People bought homes out here because they wanted to live in the country. They bought knowing that adjoining land was zoned for exclusive farm use. They bought expecting that if this EFU designation ever were changed, it only would be after a fair and open public process.
Measure 37 changed all that. It took away the rights of the many people already living near a Measure 37 claim. It created a special privileged class of property owner who doesn't have to follow the rules that neighbors do.
The OIA ad claims that "Oregon gentlemen" stood up for Dorothy English and helped pass Measure 37. What a bunch of crap. Those "gentlemen" were large timber and other companies who wanted to make money off the backs of ordinary Oregonians, who'd see their state's irreplaceable beautiful farmland and forestland sprout with McMansions.
For example, the Money in Politics Research Action Project found that Stimson Timber Company contributed $30,000 to pass Measure 37. The company now has claims totaling $269,000,000. Pretty good return on a political investment. Which puts the lie to the OIA ad:
Yet when these men [the "gentlemen"] try to protect all our rights, they are labeled as "big timber companies" and attacked for being greedy.
Well, Oregonians in Action, here's the thing: they are big timber companies. And they are greedy. Stimson Timber Company has over 200 Measure 37 claims in Washington County.
Don't be taken in by the OIA lies. I hope the legislature has the guts to pass a Measure 37 fix that doesn't go to the voters. I've said before that a ballot referral is going to be a battle of competing sound bites, not the best way to form sound public policy.
Especially when much of the sound produced by the pro-Measure 37 zealots consists of lies.