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Lawmakers tackle Measure 37 details.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - After a month of warming up to the task, the Legislature today takes up its first bill spelling out how it wants the voter-passed property rights law to work.

The afternoon hearing represents the first public airing of legislation to implement the Measure 37 compensation initiative for landowners whose development rights have been infringed upon by laws or regulations.

Senate Bill 406's chief sponsor, Sen. Kurt Schrader, said the proposal represents months of discussions with top stakeholders in the land use and compensation debates. Those discussions took place in 2001, when lawmakers were responding to a different compensation initiative, Measure 7, which voters passed in 2000 but the courts ruled as procedurally unconstitutional.

Schrader, a Canby Democrat, said he came up with the bill as a starting point for the Legislature's work on Measure 37 because it contained already fleshed out ideas on issues such as how to pay for compensation when land values are reduced, and how to decide the degree of property-value losses that merit compensation.

"It provides tentative solutions you can at least work on, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel," Schrader said.

The bill would, among other things:

Impose a new "compensation and conservation tax" on property that appreciates in value because of government actions, such as inclusion in an urban growth boundary. This revenue would be used to compensate landowners who submit Measure 37 claims. The tax could only be enacted if voters agree to amend the 1990 Measure 5 tax limit, allowing property taxes to rise from the current maximum of $15 per $1,000 of assessed value to $20 per $1,000.

Prohibit retroactive claims under Measure 37. The voter-passed initiative lets property owners seek exemptions to regulations or compensation for past regulations and laws that diminished the value of land they or their family owned at the time and still hold deed to. Schrader's bill allows such claims dating back only to the November 2004 election when Measure 37 passed.

Set thresholds in determining when a property's value has diminished enough to merit a claim for compensation. Under Schrader's bill, the standard would be a loss of 25 percent or more in a year because of government actions, or a cumulative total of 45 percent in lost value over two years or more.

The two main land use system watchdog organizations have taken vastly different views of the bill.

Oregonians in Action, a property rights group that helped draft and campaign for Measure 37, took a dim view of Senate Bill 406. Ross Day, the group's director of legal affairs, said he was disappointed that the Senate would open hearings on proposed Measure 37 legislation by considering a bill that does away with many of the initiative's key concepts - including retroactivity and the idea that any reduction of property value resulting from government action is worthy of government compensation or a waiver of regulations.

"To repeal Measure 37 in its entirety and to pay for it with a tax increase is very disrespect- ful to what the voters said in November," he said.

In contrast, 1000 Friends of Oregon, which supports Oregon's land-use system and opposed Measure 37, said SB 406 represents a good start.

By addressing issues such as how to pay for Measure 37 compensation and making sure local governments aren't forced to waive land use and environmental-protection regulations, the bill keeps faith with key elements of the initiative, said the group's lobbyist Elon Hasson.

"This at least addresses the voters' main concerns. They want fairness in land-use and they want compensation," he said.

State and local governments require residents to pay a filing fee and submit property information in order to process a claim.

However, property owners can still file lawsuits instead of claims, or go to court if they don't like the decision made on their claims by government officials.

As of Tuesday, six property owners had filed claims with Lane County, but so far only one, Kenney Gee of Creswell, has paid the filing fee and submitted paperwork necessary to start the review process, said county administrator Bill Van Vactor.

No claims have been filed with the city of Eugene.

The city of Springfield has received one claim letter, but the applicant has yet to pay a filing fee and provide officials with the required information.

Register-Guard reporter Edward Russo contributed to this report.

WHAT'S NEXT

The Senate Environment and Land Use Committee will hold a hearing today on Senate Bill 406

The hearing: 3 p.m. in the state Capitol, Hearing Room B

More information: Call committee staff at (503) 986-1640 or go online to www.leg.state.or.us
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Title Annotation:Legislature; Legislation under consideration would bar retroactive claims and set limits on amounts
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Feb 9, 2005
Words:782
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