The plethora of complicated issues surrounding Ballot Measure 37 have focused on a single point in the rural Clackamas County landscape.
Or make that two points - the twin steel poles that appeared in the sky about three weeks ago next to Highway 26, across from Good Shepherd Church. Those poles signal an end to a 35-year moratorium on billboards outside urban areas in Oregon, and the credit or blame for this change goes to 2006's Measure 37.
The 53-acre site where the billboards will be erected - there will be two such structures - has been in the same family since 1943. When viewed in that light, the property fits the intent of Measure 37, which was supposed to restore property rights to longtime landowners who were harmed by the adoption of land-use laws three decades ago.
But beyond the length of time the property has been in the same hands, the billboard proposal - already approved by Clackamas County - also serves to expose the confusion and conflicts that followed voter adoption of Measure 37. One continual question is what did voters really intend with Measure 37? Did they mean to waive all regulations, including Oregon's landmark billboard ban? Or were they only thinking about Oregon's statewide land-use laws?
Like many Measure 37 claims, this case pits neighbors against neighbors. The property owners understandably want to get some economic value from their land. Nearby residents, however, don't want their view marred. And the city of Sandy, ever vigilant against creeping Gresham-ization, opposes anything that's not green between the two cities. Sandy's talk of legal action only amplifies the ambiguities that Measure 37 brought to the state's land-use process.
While emotions already are stirred up, this is not a case of good guys vs. bad guys. It's reasonable to try to make money off property that's been in the family for 64 years. And neighbors have a right to object to developments they believe will cause harm.
What's needed - not just for this claim, but for all Measure 37 claims - is clarification from the state Legislature. Until lawmakers act to partially suspend the measure, rewrite it and refer a clearer version back to voters, then landowners, neighbors, cities and counties will be left to muddle through the existing law at great expense and agitation.