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Local editorial

State, keep hands off Measure 37

Land-use law poses many problems, but DLCD has no role in reviews

We disagree with the Jackson County Board of Commissioners about the effects of Ballot Measure 37, which gutted land-use planning in Oregon. But we do agree with the commissioners that property owners should not be required to clear their Measure 37 claims with the state's land-use agency.

The measure, approved by voters in November, allows property owners either to be compensated if a regulation adversely affects their properties' value or for land-use rules to be waived. It's a terrible law that will cause long-term damage to the livability of our communities.

But the voters approved it, and did so with a convincing 61 percent of the vote in favor. It was a repudiation of the state's all-too-often uncompromising land-use policies and the message for the state to butt out was loud and clear.

But that message apparently was not clearly received. The state Department of Land Conservation and Development has told counties and citizens that if they want to file a Measure 37 claim on property now classified as forest or farm land, they must file the claim not only with the county but with the state as well.

Measure 37's intent seems obvious: The government body that is empowered to make land-use decisions regarding the property is the appropriate source to contact. If a rural land owner in Jackson County wants to change the use of forest or farm land, the owner must make the request to the county. There is no role for the state to play in making a determination on an individual property, at least not in the initial phase.

Certainly, the state may be called on through a legal appeal if an opponent to a claim alleges that the county did not follow the law. State officials argue that it would be cleaner to simply file the initial claim with both the county and the state.

— But, if filing that claim would then require an approval from DLCD, the effect would be to put all Measure 37 claims on a waiting list that would only serve to slow the process. Beyond that, how would the state even begin to evaluate the hundreds, and potentially thousands, of claims that will be filed statewide? And process them in the required 180 days? It couldn't.

Again, we think Measure 37 is an enormous mistake. If you look at the eyesores and development mistakes that exist in this state now, most of them were created before the state adopted a comprehensive planning approach. Cities developed chaotically, with main thoroughfares dominated by a mish-mash of used-car lots, bars, convenience markets and whatever happened to strike the fancy of a property owner. Rural subdivisions sprang up with inadequate sewers and roads and created conflicts with farmers and ranchers. Forest homes built in remote areas have kept valuable firefighting resources from being used effectively.

Measure 37 was an overreaction to a land-use planning system that had turned into a bureaucratic nightmare. Passage of the measure threw out the good with the bad.

But the measure passed and state officials should go out of their way to reassure Oregonians that they will not raise any artificial barriers to implementing the law. The Department of Land Conservation and Development would be wise to tread softly here, lest it provokes another kick in the teeth from voters or the Legislature.