Oregon voters reaffirm land use controls

Oregon voters decided Tuesday that they went too far in 2004, with 62 percent of voters approving Measure 49, a partial fix to the mess created by Measure 37 three years ago. Though billed in 2004 as a way for families to build a few houses on their land, Measure 37 basically removed the last 30 years of land use regulation, making it possible for pretty much anything to be built anywhere. (Think about a gravel mine next door, or 500 new subdivision residents complaining about the smell of your working ranch you’ve owned for 50 years) And if government doesn’t allow you to build whatever you want, they have to pay you not to build it. (For a good primer on Measure 37 and related issues, check out these pages from Sightline and 1,000 Friends of Oregon)

Measure 49 was a compromise of sorts, allowing smaller developments (1-10 homes) to be built in certain scenarios, but more or less preventing huge subdivisions and other incompatible uses, preserving the fertile farmland and beauty of rural Oregon.

It’s interesting to note as well, that Measure 49 passed by nearly the same margin that Measure 37 passed with in 2004. It was clear from the comments, interviews, and letters over the last year that residents felt that they were bamboozled by Measure 37 — feeling like they got something entirely different than what they thought they were voting for.

Combined with the rejection of a regulatory takings measure in Alaska last month, both of the major ballot measures that concerned advocates for preserving open space and protecting our farms and landscapes had positive outcomes this fall. In the words of 1,000 Friends’ Bob Stacey, “We have 60-plus percent of Oregonians speaking out for the Oregon we love, ten thousand volunteers who worked on this campaign, and five thousand donors who underwrote the terrific campaign team that built this victory.”

UPDATE: Download or distribute our press release from the SGA newsroom