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Oregon high court upholds property rights law

09:06 AM PST on Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Associated Press and KING Staff Reports

SALEM, Ore. - The Oregon Supreme Court upheld a voter-approved property rights law Tuesday that requires governments to pay landowners for property value losses caused by regulations, or to waive the regulation and let the owner develop the property.

The Supreme Court reversed a decision issued in October by Marion County Circuit Judge Mary James, who said Measure 37 violates the state and federal constitutions.

At the time, James ruled that Measure 37 strips the Legislature of its power, gives long-time landowners an unfair advantage and fails to give their neighbors a voice in the process.

The Supreme Court justices said, however, “we find none of these arguments persuasive.”

Further, the high court said, while the state and federal constitutions don’t require compensation to landowners, neither do they prohibit it.

“The people, in exercising their initiative power, were free to enact Measure 37 in furtherance of policy objectives such as compensating landowners,” the court said in an opinion written by Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz.

Proponents of the 2004 law said it was only fair to compensate property owners for losses caused by land use regulations. Opponents said rural development would harm farmers and their neighbors.

Although the law has been in legal limbo, more than 2,000 claims have been filed across Oregon. Without money to compensate claimants, counties and state agencies instead waived regulations.

Advocates on both sides of the issue were hoping that Tuesday’s decision would give Oregon’s new land-use task force clear guidance on where to take Oregon’s 30-year-old land use planning system, regarded as the strictest in the nation.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski and legislative leaders recently appointed what’s been called the “big look” panel to propose reforms.

Residents in Washington's King County has been watching the Oregon dispute because of opposition to King County's critical areas ordinance. Some rural property owners argue those land use regulations impinge on their property rights. 

Online at: http://www.king5.com/localnews/stories/NW_022106ORNmeasure37LJ.4bf95da8.html


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