NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 26, 2006

Oregon's Measure 37 -- although deemed unconstitutional -- has set an example for all states considering zoning law changes, says Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center.

Originally approved by a margin of 60 percent statewide, Measure 37 required counties and the state of Oregon to pay for the value landowners lose when new zoning restrictions are put in place. Both supporters and opponents claimed that would it change the landscape of Oregon, but during the time it was in effect, the impact was less than either side expected, says Myers.

According to a study of the effects of Measure 37:

  • The impact on Oregon's landscape was smaller than expected, because even though many claims were filed, they were mostly for small, family owned plots of land.
  • Even when these claims were approved, other land use restrictions prevented new construction that would have impacted public safety or changed the character of rural parts of Oregon.
  • It also created exceptions for safety and other public concerns; for example, Habitat for Humanity was a party to a successful claim, while construction of low-income housing was denied on public safety grounds because of location.
  • It shifted the burden of restrictions from individual landowners to the public; without it, those who hold their land for long periods of time are punished disproportionately, and undemocratically, by new restrictions.

However, it is still unclear how Measure 37 would have constrained governments as they looked to change zoning laws in the future, says Myers.

Furthermore, as the battle over introducing similar measures in Washington and other states heats up, results show that land reforms are a matter of fairness; after all, protecting individual property rights and investments is the primary goal of Measure 37, says Myers.

Source: Todd Myers, "Oregon's Measure 37: Lessons from the First Eleven Months," Washington Policy Center, January 5, 2006; based upon: Todd Myers, "Oregon's Measure 37 Property Rights Law: Lessons from the First Eleven Months," Washington Policy Center, December 2005.


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