Supporters of two land-use measures appearing on Jackson County's May 15 ballot say the measures are there in part to undo an injustice to landowners who lost their development rights when Measure 37 was overturned in 2007.
But passage of these measures would only add to that injustice by falsely raising hopes that their plans could proceed. In truth, there is no chance that measures 15-110 and 15-111 would ever have any impact on land-use law and, in the case of 15-111, no chance that it would ever become a law, period.
Jackson County voters should reject both measures and save the county and the taxpayers a lot of wasted time and expense.
Measure 15-110 says Jackson County will have a general policy of opposing statewide land-use planning and that local land-use authority should supersede state law. It's empty rhetoric: The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has opposed state land-use regulations for most of two decades and all it's gotten the county are big legal bills rung up while fighting losing land-use cases.
The only thing this measure could do is embolden land-use planning opponents to challenge more local rulings, which will mean more lost causes and more expensive legal bills.
Measure 15-111 does its running mate one better by being simply unconstitutional. In essence, it says we disagree with the results of the 2007 statewide vote on land use and so are going to ignore it and do as we please. That's no more enforceable than a county law that declares county residents have decided they will no longer pay state taxes. It might make you feel good to say it, but in the end you'll pay the taxes, plus the penalty, plus the lawyers' fees to defend your indefensible position.
Both of these measures come out of the 2004 passage of Measure 37 and the 2007 rescinding of that law through Measure 49. Measure 37 essentially said that if a government denies the development plans of a property owner, the government must pay the landowner for the resulting lost value. After voters narrowly approved Measure 37, plans popped up by the hundreds across the state to build subdivisions on forest and farm lands, regardless of the consequences to neighbors and to the environment. Governments could not afford to pay for the lost values, which meant that developers had carte blanche to do as they please.
The state's voters rightly came to their senses in 2007 and overturned Measure 37. That created another problem, because some landowners had already gone to considerable trouble and expense to start developments allowed by Measure 37. The vast majority of those plans, however, were set aside by the new vote.
Measure 15-111 tries to resurrect Measure 37 for Jackson County residents only. It would have the same detrimental effects, with developers given a free hand to develop just about whatever and wherever they want. Jackson County and its cities would be even less able in today's fiscally tight times to pay for lost values, so there would be no brakes on runaway development.
That scenario isn't going to happen, hopefully because voters will see through the sham of Measure 15-111 and reject it. If not, it will be thrown out by the courts as unconstitutional, as local jurisdictions are not allowed to determine which state laws they prefer to follow and which ones they don't.
But that decision will no doubt come after a prolonged legal battle that will create more uncertainty for property owners and more expense for taxpayers. It's a losing proposition all the way around.
Measures 15-110 and 15-111 are poorly and vaguely written and simply bad law. One would have no discernible effect on anything and the second would be unconstitutional and take dollars from the county's general fund at a time that law enforcement and human services jobs are being eliminated by budget constraints.
They are both bad ideas and both should be rejected by Jackson County voters.