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Byline: Floyd Prozanski For The Register-Guard

Ballots for the Nov. 6 election will soon be in our mailboxes. This election could seal what Oregon will be like for future generations. It's a critical election for our future, and I urge Oregonians to vote yes on Measure 49. Here's why:

Measure 37, approved by the voters in 2004, was sold as a way for such people as landowner Dorothy English to build a few houses for her kids.

It was an appealing message, but proponents failed to tell voters that their true intent was to open Oregon's valuable and unique farm and forest lands to development.

Voters weren't told that Measure 37 would allow large housing subdivisions and commercial and industrial development where they currently are not permitted.

Measure 37 has resulted in more than 7,500 claims for development on more than 750,000 acres of Oregon land - most of them on protected farm and forest land, and some in water-restricted areas. About 42 percent of the claims are for what Measure 37 promised - adding a few homes.

But many Measure 37 claims are for massive development:

A single claim in Klamath Falls is for 17,000 home sites - in a county already suffering from water problems.

Claims on the Oregon Coast would bring 124 square miles of new subdivisions - some in very environmentally sensitive areas.

About 250 claims are for commercial or industrial development, including strip malls, gravel pits and big-box stores.

Stimson Lumber has 131 claims to develop 108,000 acres of forest lands (to date, it has contributed $200,000 to defeat Measure 49).

According to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, approximately one in every 11 acres of Willamette Valley agricultural lands are included in Measure 37 claims, directly threatening the viability of neighboring farms.

In the Hood River Valley it is even worse: Nearly 25 percent of all the orchards and farmland have Measure 37 development claims. Once we allow orchards, farm or forest lands to be converted into subdivisions, these resources will be lost.

In Lane County, the acreage of Measure 37 claims exceeds the combined physical size of Eugene and Springfield. Most of these claims are for subdivisions, including a 300-home-site development on the side of Mount Pisgah.

In Douglas County, third-generation ranchers are concerned that they will be shut down because of Measure 37 development. What is fair about that?

The threat is real - more than 150 subdivisions are already moving forward based on approved Measure 37 claims. Giant billboards have been erected east of Portland.

The measure has pitted neighbors against neighbors. Why should one neighbor's property rights be superior to another neighbor's property rights? More than 250 lawsuits now in Oregon courts seek to clarify Measure 37's various provisions and the actual property rights of neighbors.

Measure 37 is not fair. It's broken, and it needs to be fixed.

Measure 49 is a legislative referral to the voters that will modify and clarify Measure 37. Measure 49 does not repeal Measure 37.

Measure 49 was drafted after nine public hearings in which the legislative committee heard from 369 individuals. Hundreds more sent in written comments. A bipartisan work group of legislators met 14 times to develop the framework of Measure 49.

Measure 49 does not take anyone's property away, nor does it prevent people from building a few homes. What it does do is establish a balance in our land use system that protects the rights of property owners and their neighbors. It protects the right of farm families and other landowners to build homes on their property, and it preserves farm and forest lands for their intended uses.

Measure 49 will allow up to three homes, but no subdivisions, on high-value farm lands, forest lands or groundwater-restricted lands. It will prohibit industrial and commercial development on such lands, but will not limit such developments on lands already reserved for them in Oregon's cities and counties.

At the same time, Measure 49 expands the rights for modest homebuilding under Measure 37. It extends the homebuilding rights of surviving spouses whose claims are not eligible for compensation under Measure 37. It also will allow claimants to transfer their homebuilding rights to new owners, a right not clearly provided for under Measure 37.

Under Measure 49, claimants will be asked to choose the "Express Lane" that allows up to three home sites, or the "Conditional Lane" that allows four to 10 home sites. Both paths require claimants to show that they had the right to build the number of homes requested when they acquired their property. The Conditional Lane also requires claimants to demonstrate that they have suffered a loss of value in their land equal to the value of the number of home sites they are seeking.

This loss of value must be supported by an appraisal.

Measure 49 also provides a process for landowners to seek compensation for future land use regulations.

Measure 49 opponents have tried to keep voters from getting information about the proposal. They even filed a federal lawsuit challenging the accuracy of the Legislature's ballot title and asked the court for a temporary restraining order eliminating it from the Voters' Pamphlet! (The ballot title states, "Modifies Measure 37; clarifies right to build homes; limits large developments; protects farms, forest, groundwater.") The court denied the temporary restraining order and rejected all of the opponents' arguments as unfounded.

Measure 49 is supported by a broad coalition, including the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation and 15 other farm organizations, the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council, fishing and outdoor organizations, the Oregon Business Association, the League of Women Voters of Oregon and many more.

The campaign to pass Measure 49 is chaired by former Oregon governors Vic Atiyeh, Barbara Roberts and John Kitzhaber, and current Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

If we do not fix the flaws of Measure 37 by passing Measure 49 this November, it will be too late. We will lose prime farm and forest lands to sprawl and mass development. Measure 49 is fair. It establishes a balance in our land use system that protects the rights of landowners and their neighbors. That's why I urge Oregonians to vote yes on Measure 49.
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Title Annotation:Local Opinion
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 14, 2007
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