Byline: The Register-Guard
Supporters of Measure 37 are right about one thing- their proposal is all about "takings." It's about taking away this state's landmark land-use system. Supporters say they're seeking fair compensation for when property values are diminished by government regulation. But make no mistake: Their real aim is to subvert Oregon's land-use laws.
The measure would allow property owners - individuals or businesses, in-state or out-of-state - to file claims for damages against state and local government agencies that seek to enforce land-use or environmental laws. Only laws and rules mandated by the federal government or intended to safeguard community nuisance or health standards would be exempt. A retroactivity clause would allow some land owners to claim compensation for land-use decisions made decades earlier.
More than 300 cities, counties and other local and state government agencies would confront a Hobson's choice: Either pay claims potentially totaling billions of dollars, or waive a broad array of land-use and environmental regulations.
Development in Oregon, instead of being guided by an orderly land-use planning system, would beget a hodgepodge of strip malls, farms, car lots, houses, factories and subdivisions. Paying to stop sprawl would be an unappealing option for most governments, because they'd have to raise taxes or cut services in order to cover the cost of claims. The alternative - getting out of developers' way - would also be expensive, because of the added burden of providing public services, from schools to public safety, for the haphazard profusion of new development.
All this should sound familiar. Measure 37 is a sequel to Measure 7, which slipped under voters' radars in the 2000 election. The measure was later overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court, which said the initiative violated a prohibition against amending more than one part of the state Constitution. Oregonians in Action, a land-use watchdog group, has now returned with Measure 37. …