NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oregon Amendment Backs Property Rights

February 1, 2001

Oregon is famous for its pro-green policies, leading the nation in restoring salmon habitat, reigning in urban sprawl and protecting farms and forests from becoming housing tracts.

But in the last election, Oregon shocked environmentalists by approving Measure 7 that could kill all the regulations by basically repealing land use planning. While the amendment doesn't overturn current laws, it raises questions about whether they can be enforced.

  • Measure 7 is the most sweeping property compensation law in the country.
  • It says if the state or a local government passes or enforces a regulation that restricts the use of private property, the owner shall be paid for any loss in value.
  • A group that estimates the costs of ballot measures in Oregon said the law would cost the state and local governments $5.4 billion annually -- assuming they went ahead with their usual regulatory "takings."
  • Florida and Texas have so-called property takings compensation laws, but they are not as far-reaching as Oregon's, and less radical measures were defeated in Washington and Arizona.

The first claim filed under Measure 7 was by a truck driver, Frank Hardin, who has been prevented by local ordinances from mining gravel out of an old gold mine, claiming $50 million -- representing the value of the 18 million tons of rock his family can't mine. "We don't want their money," Hardin said. "We just want to use our property. So far, all we've been able to do is pay taxes. And they raise the taxes every year."

For now, a court order has put the measure on hold while challenges work their way up to the Oregon Supreme Court.

Source: Associated Press, "Oregon's Landmark Land Use Laws Threatened By Ballot Measure," January 31, 2001.


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