Oregon at a Crossroads: Where Do We Go from Here?

By MacLaren, Caroline E. K. | Environmental Law, Winter 2006 | Go to article overview
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Oregon at a Crossroads: Where Do We Go from Here?

MacLaren, Caroline E. K., Environmental Law

     A. Meaning of the Measure: Provisions, Exceptions, and Ambiguities
     1. Determining Restriction on Use
     2. Calculating Reduction in Fair Market Value
     3. Waiver
     4. Exemptions
     5. Ambiguities and Other Difficulties
     B. Implications for Land-use Planning in Oregon: Now and Future
        Chilling Effects
     A. Addressing Fairness and "Regulatory Takings": Transferable
        Development Credits
        1. How Do TDC programs work?
        2. Application to Measure 37
     B. Addressing Community Planning: SB 82 and the Task Force on
        Land-Use Planning
        1. First question: Where should the "Big Look" look?
        2. Second question: Who should do the looking?
        3. The third question: How should we look?
        4. Finally, question four.. What should the 'Big Look at

"What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?"

Henry David Thoreau (1)


With the adoption of Senate Bill 100 in 1973, Oregon became a pioneer in comprehensive land-use planning. Designed to manage population growth, promote economic development, and protect farm and forest lands for resource uses, Oregon's land use planning program has enhanced Oregonians' quality of life. In so doing, we created an Oregon that is more than tolerable; we created an Oregon that has attracted one million people, countless businesses, and the admiration of other states in the last thirty years. (2)

At the core of Oregon's land-use planning program are its people--of the nineteen goals that guide Oregon's planning objectives, Goal 1 is citizen involvement. Through the actions of individual Oregonians, businesses, and local and state governments, Oregon has achieved remarkable successes. Uncoordinated and leapfrog development has been stopped, providing opportunities to build and strengthen livable communities. Agricultural and forest lands that the rest of the nation has lost to urban and rural sprawl are the base of a growing and sustainable economy for family farmers, ranchers, and timber owners. Access to scenic and natural areas--the beaches, mountains, high desert, and rivers--has been protected.

Over the past thirty years, land-use planning in Oregon has evolved, but its purpose remains the same: to protect the characteristics that make Oregon unique and a place we want to call home, even as the state continues to grow.

Measure 37 and the regulatory takings movement threaten to unravel these accomplishments. As of October 1, 2005, some 2,500 claims had been filed with the state and local governments. (3) Twelve hundred of those claims have been filed with the state seeking $2.2 billion in payments, (4) or--in the alternative--the right to build thousands of houses and millions of square feet of commercial development on farm and forest lands to the detriment of those who surround them.


Responsible land-use planning meets the needs of its community by protecting rural lands and improving the built environment within towns and cities. By containing large-scale economic development (other than natural resource-based industries such as agricultural and timber production) within urban growth boundaries and rural development zones, (5) responsible land-use planning can reap the benefits of growth without destroying communities or the countryside. Investments in infrastructure are concentrated, saving taxpayer dollars and increasing livability. (6)

Land-use planning embraces the creative pragmatism that has attracted people to Oregon since the days of the Oregon Trail. Oregon, like many other states, has natural beauty: the mountains, beach, and high desert. What separates Oregon from other states are the decisions we make to preserve our home. The Beach Bill, Bottle Bill, and Oregon Land-Use Planning Act, are all examples of a deep land ethic and willingness to do things differently for an improved today and a better tomorrow.

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Oregon at a Crossroads: Where Do We Go from Here?


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