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for people who care about the West

City slaps back at property-rights measure

  Residents of Bend, Ore., might want to think twice about where they put that new pig farm or high-rise condo. A provision in a recently approved ordinance in the central Oregon city of 62,900 allows people to sue their neighbors if nearby development reduces property values.

Adopted on Dec. 1, the new rule is a response to Measure 37, which requires governments to either reimburse landowners for property value lost because of land-use restrictions, or forego enforcement of planning regulations altogether. The property-rights group Oregonians in Action touted the measure as a way to "restore fairness and balance in Oregon." But the measure, which passed Nov. 2 with 60 percent of the vote, could cost local governments billions of dollars — and lead to the demise of Oregon’s model land-use laws (HCN, 9/27/04: In Oregon, a lesson learned the hard way).

Now, counties and cities across the state are already looking for ways to fund and process claims from disgruntled landowners. Some cities are proposing charging exorbitant fees to discourage Measure 37 claims, while others are looking to the state Legislature, which reconvenes in mid-January, to provide money or assistance.

Bend and a handful of other cities, meanwhile, are taking Measure 37’s slogan to heart. Allowing people to sue neighbors who use the measure to develop their land is "the ultimate in fairness," says John Hummel, a Bend City Council member. "We’re giving them exactly what they asked for."

Backers of Measure 37 say the Bend city council is simply trying to prevent people from filing claims. They’re right, says Hummel; that’s "exactly what I’m trying to do."