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for people who care about the West

Land-use laws attacked from all sides

  Although it died on the floor of the Oregon Supreme Court last October, Oregon’s controversial property-rights initiative, Measure 7, may live again. The initiative, approved by voters in 2000, would compensate landowners for decreased property value caused by local and state land-use rules. The regulations, conceived in the 1970s, aim to preserve farmlands and forests while restricting urban growth (HCN, 11/25/02: Planning's poster child grows up).

The state’s highest court declared Measure 7 unconstitutional, based on a technicality, so this winter, the Legislature created two work groups to "keep faith with the voters" and craft a land-use reform bill. The work groups contain politicians and organizations on both sides of the property-rights issue, but their meetings have been repeatedly pushed back as the state struggles with budget problems.

In the meantime, property-rights activists are working on two ballot initiatives that are nearly identical to Measure 7, minus the unconstitutional language. Passing either one would "end everything Oregon has done on land-use planning," says Randy Tucker, a lobbyist for 1,000 Friends of Oregon and member of one of the work groups.

"As long as the government removes the restrictions," responds Bill Sizemore, executive director of the Oregon Taxpayers Union, "then they don’t have to pay. "I’m in favor of the government being visionary and looking out for what is best for the community," he adds, "as long as they don’t steal private property doing it."