Reasonable Regulation

Article excerpt

Byline: The Register-Guard

The U.S. Supreme Court recently gave a much-needed rebuke to property-rights zealots who have long sought to roll back governments' use of environmental and zoning laws to protect natural resources.

The decision upheld a development moratorium enacted to protect Lake Tahoe from pollution, reversing a 15-year history of high court rulings that have steadily expanded private-property rights against government regulation. While the 6-3 ruling has a narrow application that deals with temporary restrictions on land use, it should nonetheless help protect the public interest against radical interpretations of the "takings" clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The clause of the Fifth Amendment stating that private property shall not "be taken for public use, without just compensation" traditionally was applied to government condemnation of land for uses ranging from roadways to parks. In recent years, however, a potent combination of property rights activists and developers has argued that the clause should apply to a broader range of regulations - from zoning laws to clean water rules.

In Oregon, this movement manifested itself two years ago in the passage of Measure 7, a superficially appealing but thoroughly radical initiative aimed at rolling back the state's nationally recognized land use laws. The measure was later ruled unconstitutional, and an appeal is pending in the Oregon Supreme Court. …