Last Friday, a measure passed the Oregon House of Representatives that would send to voters (if passed in the Senate) the chance to approve or deny a 'rewrite' or 'clarification' of Measure 37, the so-called property rights bill that has, since its passage two years ago, allowed Oregonians to sidestep state land use planning malls if they can prove their property has been devalued by planning.
House Bill 3540 would allow Measure 37 claimants to build as many as three homes with fewer of the legal risks than they face today. Four to ten homes would be possible in areas without water shortages or high-value agriculture zoning. Larger subdivisions and commercial developments would be nixed, unless they're already under way.
These are all steps in the right direction, but I want to make something clear: Even if this correction passes, Measure 37 is still an abomination that is letting individuals rape the planning laws enacted for the good of all Oregonians.
I believe there is only one aspect of Measure 37 that should be allowed: for people to receive financial compensation from the state if they can prove in court that their land has been devalued. But under no circumstances whatsoever should anyone be allowed to build anything outside of planning and zoning strictures. It's said that Oregon can't afford to pay out all those people. But I'd rather see a tax or any other funding mechanism put in place than for a few people to ruin the collective sense of place-making that has for decades protected Oregon's forests and farmlands from sprawl.
As a voter, it would be very bittersweet to vote for this correction. To me it's like there is a killer on the loose, and we're voting on the possibility of replacing his machine gun with an axe. He'll be able to kill fewer people this way, but he's still a killer!