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Local editorials

Making sense of Measure 37

Hardy Myers was right. Waivers belong with the owner, not the land

When voters enact legislation through a ballot initiative, it is a near certainty that questions will arise over exactly what the new law means. Measure 37, passed last November, is no exception, and Attorney General Hardy Myers did his best to help when the Department of Land Conservation and Development asked for his opinion.

As might be expected, Myers' best wasn't good enough for those who disagree with anything that suggests government might have good reasons for regulating land use. We think he was right.

DLCD, the state land-use planning agency, asked Myers whether, under Measure 37, a property owner could obtain a waiver of regulations limiting the use of his land, then sell the land to a developer who could proceed to build what was previously prohibited.

Myers said no.

The intent of Measure 37, he said, was clearly to compensate current property owners for the loss of value that resulted from land-use restrictions enacted after they purchased the property, either in cash or by waiving the restriction. Waivers granted under Measure 37, Myers wrote, go to the owner, not to the land.

In reaching this conclusion, Myers examined the language of Measure 37, the statements for and against it in the voters' pamphlet and news reports and editorials written about it. That is the same process the courts follow to determine the intent of the voters who pass an initiative.

— Measure 37 says restrictions may be waived to allow the owner to use the property for a use permitted at the time the owner acquired the property. The measure also defines owner as the present owner of the property.

That's crystal clear to us. It also makes sense from a public policy perspective.

The voters who approved Measure 37 did so out of a sense of fairness. We don't think most voters believed they were passing a rural property owner enrichment act.

In other words, the couple who bought a parcel of land 30 years ago with the expectation that they could build a retirement home there ought to be able to get a waiver under Measure 37 and build ' and we think they ought to be able to sell that house later if they choose to do so. But they shouldn't be able to transfer that waiver to a developer and sell the property at a nice fat profit.

ODFW responds

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife deserves the thanks of the outdoor community for responding quickly and positively to the accidental death of a small dog at the Denman Wildlife Area.

Killed in a legal, lethal trap in January, Ruby the Jack Russell terrier is reportedly the first dog to die in a fur trap in the 51-year history of the state-owned area near White City and the Rogue River. The area is widely used by hunters and anglers, bird-watchers, dog-trainers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

ODFW did not have to respond as it did ' putting up warning signs, banning lethal traps and body snares and allowing only non-lethal leg-hold traps until the trapping season is over at the end of this month. The agency has pledged to rewrite trapping rules in a plan that will guide management of the area for the next 10 years.

We hope that plan will ensure that the Denman area can be used safely for all sorts of outdoor activities ' including trapping. State managers say the agency doesn't want to over-restrict the area, but wants to make it safe for everyone. We'd say they're on the right track.