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Measure 37 needs heavy dose of fairness

Measure 37 is likely one of those mistakes that will go down in the annals of government missteps.

At its inception, the idea might have had a little merit, but following the letter of the poorly written law just wreaks havoc with the established norm - with the rules of society that have carried us very well for decades.

We are hoping that our current Legislature finds ways of tempering the measure, reducing its negative influence on government funds while at the same time removing the gun that some people are holding to the collective heads of cities and counties.

Our established land-use laws have checks and balances and alternatives as well as conditions that allow variances from the law. But Measure 37 is basically black or white.

The measure allows property owners to file a claim for either the waiver of land-use regulations put in place after they acquired their land or for compensation for the cost of those regulations. The measure also requires the government entity to take official action on each claim within 180 days of its filing date.

On another level, 'planners can't plan with what's going on with Measure 37,' said Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin).

Simply, it gives an individual citizen, with his or her special interests in mind, the power to tell the government to either excuse them from the established rules or fork over taxpayer money - funds that have been budgeted for services that would benefit the entire citizenry.

It's obvious that this forerunner of development chaos is having an influence statewide. But even more devastating is what could be happening here in Clackamas County, the county with the largest number and highest value of Measure 37 claims.

The tally in early December 2006, according to County Commission Chair Martha Schrader, exceeded 1,000 claims, which could mean more than $1.6 billion in potential expenses, should the county decide not to excuse these landowners from the land-use regulations that govern everyone else.

Although, 'no compensation has been paid because there is no funding source,' said Rep. Greg Macpherson (D-Lake Oswego).

A quick look at the map that the Clackamas County commissioners mailed to all county residents last week tells a sad story. The Measure 37 status of claim properties is shown with colors: tan for pending claims, green for approved claims and red for denied, withdrawn or void claims.

The story is told in vivid color, and the map is much too colorful. The county is dotted with green and tan, with fewer than a dozen properties in red.

Of particular interest is the Stafford Triangle, which is one of the most colorful areas on the map. If these property owners are going to be allowed to circumvent the established land-use process, what control do we have over the type, style and frequency of development?

And how are the rest of us supposed to afford the tax bill that would pay for the infrastructure to support this type of extensive development.

We realize that approving a Measure 37 claim does not automatically grant an approved project. Property owners still have to go through the land-use process, which might include a public hearing. But they could be excused from adhering to the same rules that the rest of us must follow.

Any adjustments to the measure at the legislative level must move toward fairness for everyone.

We encourage residents to voice their opinion to the county commissioners as well as to their state legislators. Each of these government officials is now in the throes of this debate. And you can bet the developers and Measure 37 claimants are hard at work to quell the tide of scorn that these claims have generated.

Your voice will be heard, and can make a difference.