Land Use Laws Protect Quality of Life

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), September 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

Land Use Laws Protect Quality of Life


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Tom Bowerman and Constance Beaumont For The Register-Guard

As Oregon struggles with joblessness and economic stagnation, it's hardly surprising that longtime opponents of Oregon's land use planning system will try to place the blame on laws that have protected our state's quality of life for a quarter-century. Bill Moshofsky's falsely reasoned guest viewpoint (Register-Guard, Aug. 25) is just the latest example.

Moshofsky's column does, however, provide an opportunity to consider the economic impact of Oregon's land use laws. When we do, it becomes clear that our land use program is among our most important tools for promoting economic recovery and protecting the billions of dollars of investments Oregonians have made in our communities.

Good planning protects property values by providing predictability for landowners.

Prudent investors understand a key principle of real estate economics: What happens next door can destroy - or enhance - the value of one's own property.

Thus, a prospective home buyer asks: Could a lot adjoining my house become a 24-hour convenience store or a junk yard? The head of a job-generating industrial plant wants to know: Might nearby lands be rezoned for big-box retail stores, making it harder to move heavy equipment in and out? A couple investing their life savings in the restoration of an historic hotel wonders: Will the area remain attractive to tourists, or will it succumb to sprawl that drives away customers?

All of these are examples of actual land use issues that have occurred in Oregon. They demonstrate that citizens, businesses and investors alike need predictability in land use so they can make sound economic decisions.

Enemies of planning often attack Oregon's urban growth boundaries. But the Real Estate Research Corporation, an independent real estate investment consulting firm, concluded in 1998: "In reality, the most stable investment markets - the ones that have staying power and hold value - also have growth controls, either government-enacted or enforced by natural geographic boundaries. It's no coincidence that San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston are hemmed in by water... . Developers reflexively loathe the regional growth boundaries set by Portland, Ore., but admit the laws have led to a thriving downtown center as well as a healthy metropolitan area."

According to economic consultant Joseph Cortright, protecting Oregon's quality of life is a critical element of a successful economic strategy in the high-tech era. …

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