Did you know … you have something in common with rural landowners? Something that could benefit schools that are in terrible need of money.
When landowners who have benefited from farm /forest tax deferral are able to waive the restrictive zoning that has been placed on them, they must first repay the taxes to the county or municipality who taxed their property (10 years back tax benefits). This is money that will come into the county not earmarked for anything. If all the landowners who qualify for Measure 37 relief were to file for building permits today, the figure could be close to $200 million statewide. In addition, the areas that are developed will continue to pay as much as 100 times the amount of taxes that the former farm paid in property taxes. This is money that must be paid to the county or municipality before a single home is built. Think what the schools could do with this money!
When I was interviewed by The Oregonian recently, I told (reporters) this and much more about land use planning, but they declined to print it. The paper, it seems, has an urban perspective that doesn't allow for a rural point of view. I know that urban residents are against urban sprawl, but all the land that qualifies for Measure 37 relief is a mere 1.5 percent of all the private land in Oregon. When you consider that in excess of 70 percent of all the land in Oregon is already publicly owned, we are talking about a pretty insignificant amount of the whole picture. If we believe the population experts, there will be a million more people in Oregon over the next 30 years. The landscape will change whether we like it or not. It is simply a matter of how it will change. I believe that Rural Residential is a viable compromise to our situation. Homes situated on 5 or 10 acres are still very rural. You probably wouldn't notice the additional homes from the road. Families can raise their children in the country and away from the urban overcrowding. They can have the farm lifestyle without the burden of having a huge farm. I enjoyed riding my horse and swimming in the river as a kid. We have 1.5 miles of river frontage, which because of liability issues, we must keep posted for no trespassing. If we were able to divide our land up into more family friendly sizes, like 10 acre plots, 35 families would be able to enjoy our river view setting. Also we only pay $6,000/ year in property taxes because of the farm-forest deferral. If we were to put 35 homes on our land, the new homeowners would pay more than 100 times that amount collectively in property taxes in perpetuity. People are attracted to Oregon because of our green spaces, but when they move here we crowd them into high density urban areas. I live in Lake Oswego now where it is zoned seven houses/acre.
In addition to the windfall that the counties will receive if Measure 37 claimants are allowed to develop their land, there is the issue of the lawsuits now pending against the state, that would immediately go away if the state would simply allow the claims to go through. After all, the citizens have voted, not once, but twice, on these land use issues. Both times it was 61 percent in favor of these changes. I am sure that the $2.3 billion in potential lawsuit claims will have an effect on our bond rating as a State. Schools and public entities need a good bond rating in order to grow and develop new public services.
Lauri Hein is a resident of Lake Oswego.