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Private property: a vanishing idea?

In 1965, my wife Joan and I bought our home on Clackamas County acreage. Because of governmental regulations and the desires of some citizens, it has become more difficult to defend our private property rights. Many city planners have used the term “connectivity” to trump the right to privacy and private property. Following is but one of several examples that have impacted our lives.

In 2005, we were approached by a representative of three private parties from the same family. They wished to buy two acres for a three-home compound with a mutual swimming pool. These three families wanted to move from a busy street to a private location in which to raise their children. The Trust Deed sale was consummated. The families retained a development company to assist with the many details necessary to begin construction. But at a late stage, city engineering and planning departments told them they could not build without granting the city a wide strip for walking and bicycles. The pathways would extend approximately 600 feet to the back of the property and approximately 200 feet across the back of the property.

Because the city would not relent, the sale was terminated. The buyers lost their up-front costs and their dream. We lost the sale, and since the buyers annexed the property to the city in preparation for construction, our property taxes almost doubled. In addition, the recession set in and the value of the property dropped substantially.

It is clear that dedicated pathways through private property diminish its sale value. City employees denied the pathways killed the sale, but I was kept abreast of the negotiations by a buyer, and I also saw the demand in city documents.

Recently, the city has been studying transportation policies which include streets, sidewalks, pathways, etc., and we discovered that pathways have been placed on the map of our property without our knowledge. One went across the back of our land and two intruded east and west. These pathways were on the City Council agenda, but we were not notified by staff. Had we not discovered this fact by accident, we would have been out of the discussion. Thankfully, we are now participants in the discussion.

For several years, the Forest Highlands Neighborhood Association has recommended against pathways in our immediate area. The reasons include intrusion behind homes with deep lots, child safety factors and private property rights. Presently, the City Council is giving serious consideration to these concerns. This is a great improvement over the past.

Of note, the U.S. Constitution staunchly protects private property rights. The Fifth Amendment states, “...nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” It does seem curious that some governmental bodies and some citizens feel they have the right to have their wishes fulfilled at the expense of the financial and property rights of others.

Kent C. Myers is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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