Measure 49 will fix some of the problems of Measure 37


In her citizen's view column in last week's Review Carolyne Jones asked us not to 'lose sight of the fact that voters OK'd Measure 37.'

But when the voters passed that measure, they were responding to TV ads showing an elderly woman - Dorothy English - who was frustrated because she could not build houses for her grandchildren on her rural land.

Most voters were unaware that the pro-Measure 37 campaign was largely bankrolled by a group of large timber companies.

According to the 1000 Friends of Oregon (, Timber Service Company wants waivers to build housing subdivisions with a total acreage larger than the area of McMinnville. Lone Rock Timber Company has demanded $29.2 million or the right to put subdivisions on 1,243 acres of land zoned for forest use.

Statewide, Stimson Lumber has 74 claims encompassing acreage equal to more than twice the size of the city of Bend.

Most voters were also unaware of the threat Measure 37 poses to Oregon's farmland - especially farmland in areas close to urban growth boundaries. In Clackamas County alone, more than 2,000 claims have been filed, many of which are for large residential subdivisions or commercial and industrial activities such as shopping malls and gravel pits. (See for detailed maps of Measure 37 claims in Clackamas County and several other Oregon counties.) Such uses are incompatible with farming and, in other states, have strongly tended to drive out farming. At a time of high energy prices and concerns about global warming and the safety of imported food, it makes no sense to pave over our local sources of food.

After months of hearings, the Oregon Legislature, led by our Representative Greg Macpherson and others, referred to the voters a fix for Measure 37 that will appear on the November 2007 ballot as Measure 49.

Measure 49 protects the property rights of small individual landowners by immediately allowing them up to 3 houses on their property, if the law allowed it when they or their families bought their land. And it will pass those rights on to a surviving spouse or to someone who purchases the property from the current owner - something that Measure 37 did not do. Additionally, property owners can build up to 10 houses if they can document a financial loss equal to the value of the additional houses - as voters intended with passing 37: If property is high-value farmland, forests or places with limited water supplies - as defined in the act - then only up to 3 homesites may be added.

Measure 49 closes the loopholes and protects the places that make Oregon special, stopping the abuse of huge housing subdivisions, strip malls and industrial development where they simply don't belong. Following passage of Measure 49, commercial and industrial development, as well as large subdivisions, must proceed through the existing land use planning and development processes.

What if it fails? There will be no limits on industrial and commercial development on farmland, forests or places where water supplies are limited. That means claims in progress, including the rock blasting and quarrying operations, riverfront landfills and shopping malls, can proceed. There will be no relief to the mess facing taxpayers - billions of dollars in compensation demands on the one hand or the huge cost of infrastructure for sprawling development on the other. There will be no limit on the size of housing subdivisions, even in places where roads, water supplies and other infrastructure simply cannot handle such large-scale development.

There will be no requirement for claimants to actually prove they have suffered the losses that would trigger the right to build. There will be no ability for landowners to transfer development rights.

This will hurt individuals and families who just want to provide a home or two for their children. We can kiss goodbye to Oregon's farmland, forests and natural resources at an unprecedented rate, just like other parts of the world where land is usurped without the benefit of land use regulations. This isn't just about quality of life: These resources are critical to a strong economy for our children and grandchildren.

For more information, or to volunteer to help the campaign, visit

Mike Litt is a resident of Lake Oswego.