Out of Control Policy Blog

Legal Roadblocks Ahead for Oregon's Measure 37

Property rights advocates nationwide rightly cheered the recent passage of Oregon's Measure 37, which would force the government to either (1) compensate property owners suffering economic loss as a result of environmental and land use regulations, or (2) grant an exemption from the rules.

But Measure 37's passage was only the opening salvo in what will likely prove a lengthy and contentious series of legal challenges. According to this article in The Oregonian, some city and county governments are planning on setting up high hurdles for Measure 37 claims, moves almost certain to provoke legal challenges:

    "Oregon landowners may face a high price of admission Thursday when they start testing Measure 37, the state's new property-rights law.

    Asking to be excused from land-use rules or paid to follow them could cost at least $1,500 and require an inches-thick application form. Not all cities and counties are taking those tacks, but consider: Cities ranging from Bend to Canby will allow neighbors to sue landowners who use the measure to change their property.

    Eugene will consider development allowed by waivers a nuisance after property changes hands, meaning it would have to be removed. Multnomah County proposes forcing owners to have a development application rejected, costing as much as several thousand dollars, before they could make certain Measure 37 claims.

    Cities and counties putting the measure in place say strict standards will protect them from lawsuits and financial disaster. But proponents of the measure, which promises relief when planning decisions hurt land value, say local governments are undermining voters' intent."

    This contentious start means Oregon's latest land-use experiment will wind up in court, where it probably will be decided piecemeal over at least the next year.

So much for the will of the voters (M37 passed by a 60%/40% margin). Hold on tight Oregon property owners, this is going to be a bumpy ride...

Leonard Gilroy is Director of Government Reform


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