Like a land use virus spreading from state to state, Oregon’s new Measure 37 law is attracting property rights advocates in other states, prompting anti-sprawl groups to issue a mobilization warning. The concept behind Measure 37 is that local jurisdictions must compensate landowners anytime they establish a regulation that reduces a landowner’s property value. The net effect of a law like this is that it puts a major damper on land-use planning and open space protection through zoning. Some would say it stops planning in its tracks as cities and counties shy away from passing any new land-use regulations out of concern that they will face huge financial pay-outs to affected landowners. A group called the Napa Valley Land Stewards Alliance is sponsoring another group, Citizens United to Protect Homes & Dreams. NVLSA is proposing a new ballot initiative: THE FAIR PAYMENT FOR PUBLIC BENEFIT ACT. The Napa County proposal is based on Oregon’s Measure 37, the property rights, budget-busting initiative that passed last November. The Napa County version would require that the county pay property owners for any loss in value as a result of new land use or planning laws. Property owners would owe nothing to the government for creating any of the value of their property through the provision of infrastructure or other environmental regulations that protect their land from degradation by others. Protection of public trust resources would have no value in this scheme. According to an anti-sprawl group known as Friends of the Eel River, “The NVLSA is also looking to undercut controls over land use in the Napa County General Plan, streamside development ordinances and other protective legislation. This will be a model for what comes to Sonoma County next. The group is in part sponsored or allied with the Pacific Legal Foundation and other property rights groups. Success of efforts like this will completely undercut long term planning and environmental protections throughout the state and nation.” A recent article in The Oregonian newspaper said that three months into Measure 37, “people on both sides of the new property rights law agree on one thing: Oregon is a state in chaos….For the time being, Oregon — long considered the national model for controlled growth — has lost its sense of predictability.” Measure 37 passed with 61% of the vote. It guaranteed Oregonians whose property value has been reduced by zoning rules one of two fixes: either payment from the government for their lost value, or a waiver from the zoning rules. There are reportedly at least 460 claims already waiting to be processed in the state, but their is no agency to handle such claims. The group 1000 Friends of Oregon has taken the measure to court. Oregon officials say new development rights cannot be passed from one owner to another. That means the longtime landowner has to carry out the proposed project rather than selling to a developer. It also puts subsequent buyers on shaky ground, with their houses labeled nonconforming uses.
For more information on Oregon’s Measure 37, go to the 1000 Friends of Oregon, at www.friends.org, or contact the Friends of the Eel River at [email protected]