Long before there was a Measure A to debate in Napa County, voters in Oregon passed a law with the same idea in mind. Known as Measure 37, the law is more sweeping than the Napa ballot proposal. The Oregon law, passed by 61 percent of the voters in 2004, allows private property owners to seek compensation from the state if land use laws -- including those passsed before Measure 37 was decided -- hurt private property values. The Napa County proposal is more limited in key respects: It would take hold only in one county, and does not allow private property owners to seek compensation for laws already on the books. But both measures stem from concerns about government encroaching on property rights, and seek to swing the pendulum toward landowners. George Bachich, president of the Napa Valley Land Stewards Alliance, said, "We're not facing the onerous regulations that they had to face (in Oregon), and we're not proposing the radical solution that they had to take. But it's motivated by the same spirit."Measure A differs from Measure 37 in two key respects. First, it is a prospective-based measure, meaning that it only applies to future land use regulations. Measure 37 applies retroactively to laws already on the books. Second, Measure A includes a potentially significant loophole; it would not apply to land use regulations approved by voters at the ballot box. Given the propensity of voters in places like Ventura County to pass sweeping land use laws that prevent development on vast swaths of land, this could significantly water down Measure A's property rights protections. For more on Measure 37, see my recent study and my recent Planetizen.com op-ed on state efforts to replicate Measure 37.
A Measure 37 for Napa County?
Following in the footsteps of Oregon, Napa County voters will be voting on their very own regulatory takings ballot measure -- Measure A -- next week. If passed, Measure A will provide landowners compensation for property devaluations that result from the imposition of new land use regulations, or alternatively will allow the county to waive the implementation of the regulations on affected properties. According to the Napa Valley Register: