Oregon law reins in liberal land-use policies

Freedom Newspapers

One shouldn’t put too much stock in the blue state vs. red state phenomenon described by political analysts. One of the most significant victories of the Nov. 2 election for believers in limited government came in the heart of blue country.

Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 37, which reins in some of the draconian liberal land-use rules that have dominated development in Oregon since the 1970s. In Oregon, planners wantonly restrict private property uses in a misguided effort to control so-called sprawl.

Typical of the Smart Growth movement, wealthy people who already have their homes have used the process to stop other people from building on their own property. Smart Growthers believe that most people should live in high-density apartments and condos, with the surrounding land saved in perpetuity as open space.

It’s unquestionably an authoritarian planning regimen, especially when one considers that property owners who face reduced uses of their property are not compensated for the losses.

Measure 37 simply requires the government to pay compensation when property values are obliterated by new land-use rules, or to waive those rules. Last week, the rule went into place, and property owners began submitting requests for compensation. Angry officials responded by imposing filing fees as high as $7,500 on property owners, according to published reports. Soon, a flurry of lawsuits will begin.

Advocates for the measure believe it will start a nationwide movement, given that other states also routinely abuse property rights without paying compensation.

Three people featured in the pro-Measure 37 campaign were expected to file for compensation immediately: 92-year-old Dorothy English “wants to be able to subdivide land she has owned since the 1950s in the scenic hills overlooking Portland,” reported The Associated Press, and Gene and Barbara Prete “want to be able to build a house on land where they keep their horses. Both have been barred from doing so by state land-use laws intended to protect forest and agricultural land from residential development.”

The Smart Growth movement wants Americans to forget that their goals are to deprive real people — such as English and the Pretes — of the fair use of their land, all to assuage the planners’ aesthetic sensibilities. We hope the rest of the nation follows Oregon’s lead in reining in these not-so-smart land-use policies.