Measure 37 “Sky is Falling” Proved False

So declared the Oregon Conservation Network in an e-mail to supporters shortly before Christmas. And what is causing the “sky to fall?” Well, Measure 37 of course. Measure 37 is the wildly popular land use reform law that requires government to pay landowners for the taking of the use of their property or refrain from taking it.

You remember the dire predictions of 1000 Friends and every major newspaper editorial board that passage of Measure 37 would mean the environmental ruin of Oregon. You remember the predictions by these same alarmists that the cost of Measure 37 would run into the billions of dollars.
Do you remember the Oregon Conservation Network hyperventilating,

“Fertile farmland and open spaces are being converted to sprawl and mining operations. . . The Oregon that we know and love will no longer exist if Measure 37 claims like this are allowed to go forward.”

What a load of bat guano. Two years have passed and not one of their predictions has come true. However, they never give up and so they are now intent on making a mountain out of a molehill. And the major newspapers of the state should be ashamed of printing their propaganda without asking one serious question or putting the matter in context.

Let’s look at the facts:
Oregon occupies about 61 million acres of land. Just under sixty percent of that (34 million acres) is owned by the state, federal or local governments and, therefor exempt from development. Only about 1.2 percent of Oregon is currently developed. Yes, that’s right. Only 1.2 percent or 730,000 acres are developed. The concern about “open spaces” is a crock. Ninety-eight point eight percent of Oregon is already ‘open spaces.” When you hear the environmental extremists talking about “open spaces” what they are really talking about is using your land for their purposes without paying you a dime.

The e-mail refers to “a demand by an out of state corporation to turn 32,000 acres of forests in the Coast Range into suburban-style development.” I’m always amused by the sinister references to “out of state corporations” by the extremists crowd while they quietly rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars from “out of state” interests in support of their radical environmental agenda. Apparently, there is “good” out of state money and “bad” out of state money, and only the environmental extremists are capable of determining which is which.

Be that as it may, the “sinister” out of state corporation is none other than long time Oregon business, taxpayer and employer Plum Creek Lumber. (By the way, few if any of the out of state supporters of the radical environmental groups have ever paid taxes or provided jobs in Oregon.) In announcing its intention to file its Measure 37 claim, Plum Creek acknowledged that little of the land was suitable for or would ever be developed for housing. Even if Plum Creek wanted to develop the land for “suburban-style” housing, it would have to get all of the environmental permits required of every other developer, including providing sources for clean water, adequate sewage treatment, roads, utilities, etc. In other words, folks, it ain’t never going to happen. Not in my lifetime, not in your lifetime, not even in the infinite lifetime of a corporation.

These are just scare tactics. The same tactics used repeatedly by the radical environmental lobby.

You may remember that when Oregon adopted its famous land use system, it was held out to be the model for all of the United States. Thirty years have passed and not one other state has adopted it – not a particularly ringing endorsement of “model legislation.”

You may also remember that when Oregon adopted this land use system, the principle architects warned that the system needed to be modified to compensate landowners for the diminution in value of their land through imposition of land use restrictions. But it never happened because these same radical environmental groups opposed every attempt by the legislature to remedy the problem. For thirty years, landowners have been denied the use of their own lands because of environmental restrictions. For thirty years, the state and local governments have enjoyed the unfettered use of this land without paying a dime. For thirty years, this abuse went unchecked until the voters of Oregon got fed up with it – got fed up with takings, got fed up with phony alarmists rhetoric of the radical environmentalists, got fed up with the insincere acknowledgements of the problem but never a solution.

And now, the same groups who opposed any solution are demanding that the legislature and the governor adopt legislation that will “suspend” Measure 37 while they study it for awhile. That is exactly the same rationale they extended in opposing every previous legislative solution. In the end, the study never ends, the suspension never ends, the solution never occurs, and Oregon is back to abusing it landowners at the behest of the radical environmentalist who still are insistent in locking up Oregon forever.

The radical environmental groups are engaged in a coordinated effort to stampede the legislature. They are contacting every member – what are you doing?

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Posted by at 07:19 | Posted in Measure 37 | 13 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jerry

    Well said Larry. These are the same people who said many would die in the streets from Ballot Measure 5.
    They are full of lies and deceit. When the lose it is their only recourse.
    People who listen to them should be ashamed.
    Thanks for your work on exposing their lies and arrogance.

  • Captain_Anon

    Speaking of context:

    Not all those who are against Measure 37 are extremists, radicals or 1000 friends members. many, if not most, are reasonable people who have real, valid concerns about the measure and the possible development it could bring.

    Part of the reason the sky hasn’t fallen is because key components are still held up in Court. depending on how the judgements fall, there could still be dire consequences. those massive subdivisions were not part of the package that sold measure 37 to the population. people thought yeah, people should be able to get thier house on thier farm land, or give thier 3 grandkids a parcel or land. they didn’t believe that job bob up in the hills should be able to divide his 500 acres into 250 lots that require all kinds of residential services and could greatly impact water availability in the area. people really are freaking out at the prospect that neighbors want to turn sleepy old fam communities into thriving towns by dividing the 100 acres on either side into 50-100 homes. Look at Hood River. the pear industry may lay in the balance as over land owners are trying to turn 10,000 acres into homesites. that could have a HUGE impact on transportation, water quality etc. and in those measure 37 claims, land owners are trying to get out of the very environmental requirements you say they must meet.

    I don’t believe Measure 37 was MEANT for huge subdivisions – at least the people voting for it didn’t want that. and certainly didn’t forsee that.

    There are big costs associated with the measure as well. part fo the reason it isn’t as high as predicted is because, again, key issues are in court. if the judgemetns go one way, it could cost jurisdictions huge amounts of money is new services, lawyers fees etc. Law Firms are trying to litigate jurisdictions into submission – barely even working with them to try and solve the issues. the cost to administer the claims is huge. the state had to hire 19 staff just for measure 37 claims – and they have an easy process that requires virtually no proof to substantiate a claim. so don’t say it should cost nothing, because even with minimal requirements and effort, they are expensive. this was *ANOTHER* unfunded mandate that costs tax payers big time. and no, the taxes generated from any development approved will not pay for it. because residential development always costs more money to serve than it brings in in added revenue – unless it is high density urban development.

    there are still real and concerns out there lingering. but a lot of it has to do with how the courts rule. if they rule such that those 7000 claims can divide and sell, then there will be a HUGE impact on roads, schools, farming practices, crop availablity etc. and lets just look at the market. those forces that prevent unlimited growth and housing are the forces that make YOUR property so valuable. if it’s truely a supply and demand driven industry, then the availabilty of all that new housing will flood the market with available homes, and slash the value of homes already out there. you could see a massive devaluation of your property values. then what?

  • Chris McMullen


    You claim voters were sold a bill of goods regarding M37. You make it sound like we didn’t understand the consequences. Newsflash: we knew exactly what we were doing.

    For years, both local and state governments decided to ignore the public’s unhappiness with existing land use planning regulations. We finally got fed up and forced the will of the people on them. Democracy reigned supreme and now our electeds and public employees are whinging about unfunded mandates. If they did something about it a long time ago like they were supposed to, they wouldn’t be in this mess.

    And you wonder why government earns the scorn of so many…

    Moreover, projects are forced upon the public all the time. I didn’t have any say in the commuter rail boondoggle going in by my neighborhood. A project that is sure to cause massive traffic backups on Greenburg Rd and Hall Blvd. Not to mention the added irritant of train noise every half hour and increased diesel emissions. People need to suck it up every once in a while and accept development by their homes (like I did).

    You said: “…because residential development always costs more money to serve than it brings in in added revenue – unless it is high density urban development.”

    This is one of the most ignorant statement I’ve read in a long time. Do you have a cite for that claim? If density projects are so fruitful, then why do they need subsidies, abatements and tax financing schemes? I challenge you to cite any urban renewal/density project in Oregon that’s contributing over and above their cost in taxes and services.

    It sounds to me like you’ve been sold a bill of goods regarding Urban Renewal Cappy.

    • Captain_Anon

      Hi Chris,

      Remember that the last 30 years of planning has been brought to where it is not soley based on governmental action or inaction. Court cases have substantially altered the land use program in oregon. neighbors suing the government because of approvals or because they didn’t follow the letter of the law but rather the intent of the law – and that went against that particular neighbors desire for the neighborhood. the courts have altererd land use planning, for better or worse, much more than the actual text of the laws on the books because of the courts interpretations. I think you would be missing a key component in all this if you didn’t take that into account. orginally, there was flexability in the planning system to accomodate communities opinions and wishes. and court ruling closed the door to flexability. which is why we have what we have now. all the litigating on the tiny nuances of the law has gotten us to where we are. and the blame for that is the citizenry. our society is overly zealous when it comes to lawsuits.

      public projects, such as the commuter rail you are talking about, have all kinds of phases for public input. and that input often affects the outcome and changes those projects. perhaps not to your liking, but there are changes made to most public works projects based upon citizen input. but remember, you can please all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can’t please all the people all the time. someone is always going to feel like they got the short end of the stick.

      When you read the articles, listen to people, and hear what they are saying, they are saying that yes, they wanted Measure 37, but they did not understand the consequences it would have. they thought it was for old time families getting thier retirement home, or two or three. they did not think it would give farmers or lumber companies the ability to build 500 new homes in thier back yard. and i guarantee you that if you were one of them and facing 500 new homes, with 2.2 people in each, you’d be plenty concerned and steamed about having 1100 new neighbors, 5000 new traffic trips, and a reduced home value because of the new view and externalities on your property. Are you pissed about the reduction in property value the train you mentioned is having on your property?

      maybe YOU understood the complete consequences of Measure 37. but let’s face it, most did not. they didn’t forsee these massive proposals. it’s not a political stance. it just is what it is.

      Here is a link you may be interested in. It was easy to find. My studies in school also showed study after study that shows new residential development does not directly pay for itself. Suburban type of development is the most expensive because of increased distances between hook ups and longer roads.

      Notable quote: “COCS studies have become a popular method of examining the fiscal impacts of different land uses on local governments. These studies attempt to identify current local governmental revenues and expenditures that are associated with broad categories of land use (for example, residential, commercial, industrial, and farmland/open space). In other words, this approach considers the direct fiscal impacts that are attributable to each land use (e.g., the impact of residential land use would include the amount of property tax revenues that are generated by existing residents and the amount of expenditures that are required to services these residents). Results from COCS studies are summarized in terms of a ratio of expenditures to revenues for each land use. A ratio greater than one indicates that expenditures outweigh revenues for that particular land use. *A number of COCS studies have been performed across the U.S. and have consistently shown that expenditures outweigh revenues for residential land use, leading to the conclusion that residential development does not pay for itself.” *

      Your question about urban renewal districts has nothing to do with the direct cost of development and services. It’s a completely different discussion. That is a market question dictated more on land price and the risk a lender is willing to incur in a project. if you take the cost to service a condo tower in the pearl district and it’s revenue vs the cost to service a similarly sized parcel in suburbia and it’s revenue, you will easily see that the condo produces FAR more income and requires far less services per capita. Let’s say the condo has 100 units on an acre of land. The suburban development has 4 homes on an acre of land. All else being equal, the condo unit will have one point of connection for electricity, sewer, water and stormwater while the suburban development has 4 points of connection. The roads to the condo will go to one point: the parking garage whereas the residential development will require roads to all 4 sides of the square to access each dwelling. the income generated from 100 units will far exceed that of 4 units. I think you get my point for dense vs sparse development.

      Over the long term (say a 50 year period), the pearl district will produce FAR more revenue as it is than would the old, dead, industrial base it had 10 years ago. Common sense says that each of those sites would receive the same amount of fire and police protection as the previous buildings since there was no new addition of area to the city. It wasn’t turning vacant and unused land into a vibrant city. There were roads, there were utilities, there were public services already. The revenue generated over that 50 year period will far exceed that of the industrial base. Yes, there are more costs, but I believe common sense shows that the massive influx in property value and the tax benefits from that increase in value will far exceed the previous tax base and tax revenue. In fact, long ago I posted an analysis of this. I took one building in the pearl, showed the previous valuation (was like 250,000) and it’s current assessed value (around 10 million) and that over time, it will generate leaps and bounds more cash flow than the previous industrial use ever would. Food for thought. but remember, this isn’t about urban renewal districts, this is about Measure 37. two completely different beasts

      • Tim Lyman

        It’s the same old liberal BS mantra whenever a conservative ballot measure passes “The voters didn’t really know what they were passing.” A classic example of the “everyone but us is stupid” liberal mindset.

        As for pearl district condos – those things are so heavily subsidized by local government its ridiculous – ten year property tax waivers for buyers, sweetheart deals including land below value, tax breaks and low or no interest financing for developers all courtesy my tax dollars.

        • Captain_Anon

          Hey news flash. I’m not liberal. but i’m also not a libertarian.

          in the case of Measure 37, the voters didn’t really know it would come to this. time and time again voters who voted yes on 37 are now saying they are upset because they were sold the Dorothy English solution, and are getting more and more timber companies wanting to develop thier hundreds of acres of forest land. that’s not what it was meant for.

          Tim, tax abatements have so many positives its not even funny. people can improve thier homes much easier. it makes it easier for the working man to help himself out. and after 10 years, the city gets to reap the benefits in fatter tax rolls. 10 years is a drop in the hat when it comes to the age and financial prospect of a city. Tim, IF you’re actually subsidizing anything , it’s probably around 10 bucks. the cost of a burger. so don’t cry too hard. and remember, they will produce FAR more taxes than they would have if the abatements weren’t in place. so in the long term, even in 15 years, the city will reap more than they lost to encourage it. who cares if a property owner sells land below market value? its thiers to do with as they please, is it not?

          And yes Jerry, i do dare say what i think. I’ve read a lot of the Oregonians in Action materials, i’ve heard Dave hunnicut speak in person at least twice. I’d say i’ve listened to what they have to say far more than you. i really wish you lived next to a proposed 500 lot subdivision, because then you’d be singing a different tune. oh wait, you moved to Arkansas where you really have no business dealing with Oregon politics anymore. you must not have wanted your neighbor developing a pumice mine next to you or erecting a massive mall.

          • Chris McMullen

            Your density assertions are just no true, Cappy. Urban renewal may work in theory, but not in reality. Even the left-leaning City Club of Portland did a comprehensive PDC study that showed no proof of increased tax rolls on abated properties.

            If it’s so lucrative to build condo towers, then there’s no need to subsidize them. Moreover, the PDC is required by law to produce a financial statement for all UR districts. They haven’t produced one in five years. Seems to me they’re hiding something.

            And what happens when the housing market turns down (vacancy rates are rising in the Pearl right now)? The taxpayers gets stuck holding the bag when their ‘investment’ doesn’t pan out.

            Meanwhile, these abated properties go from 10 to 30 years without paying their fair share of property taxes. And to add insult to injury, the taxes they do pay go to paying for the trolley cars, trams and sidewalks.

            TODs, TIF and Urban Renewal is bilking the taxpayers for billions of dollars nationwide.

          • Captain_Anon


            You’re bring up subjects i know you’re passionate about. however, they aren’t involved in this discussion. The accountability of PDC and thier funding sources isn’t the meat here. and studies looking at all 16 of portlands urban renewal districts don’t paint an accurate picture of the Pearl. The pearl is a success in terms of urban renewal, and increasing the tax rolls. i went to portlandmaps and took a property and ran the numbers, and posted them here sometime ago. There is a long history of private/public partnerships that have been successful not only in terms of the publics approval of them, but also in income generation, public works being accomplished faster and more economically etc. The public has sudsidized many projects that have definitely helped the greater good. Sometimes the barrier to entry are so great that a helping hand is needed. when and how is up to the elected officials. and we, as the public vote them in.

            as you know, when vacancy rates rise, rents come down. or asking prices. but that still won’t detract from the added tax rolls. the value of those parcels and their improvements is astronomical compared to what they were.

            the only district that had its abatement extended was the central eastside district. but remember, when a property is sold, the taxes are reset. most urban renewal districts give abatements to the IMPROVEMENTS, not the taxes themselves.

          • Chris McMullen

            Uh… I beg to differ, the PDC -is- the meat of the matter. It’s government institutions like these that are bilking taxpayer’s nationwide with UR scams and back room dealings.

            The Pearl could have been developed without public subsidy or abatements. All the city had to do is change the zoning and maybe make some infrastructure improvements — such as the Lovejoy ramp. No subsidies, no abatements. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t have helped Vera Katz’s buddy, Homer Williams, become Portland’s biggest developer.

            Abatements and subsidies aside, there’s also the practices of sweetheart land deals, reduced land valuations, grants and other assorted shenanigans that pass underneath the public radar. Hell, even UR defenders like Eric Sten and Randy Leonard are questioning the validity of theses ridiculous tax breaks.

            I know you’re a big defender of big government Cap, however the real successes in this country are born by the individual without the ‘help’ of big brother.

          • Captain_Anon

            interestingly enough, changing the zoning and building the Lovejoy ramp/other infrastructure improvements would be seen as sweetheart deals/public sudsidizing for private development by yourself and those who think similarly.

          • Captain_anon

            Actually, many of the road widening/improvement projects are really sweetheart deals to those that own property along them/at the end of them. many of those projects open up development. if not altered, then citizens would not want to move to those areas. I guess government shouldn’t subsidize fixing the traffic and congestion those developers cause. Such as all over Washington County – like Bethany, Conelius, Forest Park. Expanding the infrastruction IS subsidaztion by the public of those development projects.

  • Jerry

    Capt Anon – get real. If Oregon wants no development all they have to do under Measure 37 is pay for that right. It is that simple. Otherwise, develop we must. How dare you say what you think Measure 37 was meant to deal with. How do you know? It was meant to compensate people who were prevented from developing their land – big or small – so compensate them if you don’t like their plans. Just compensate them – don’t go on and on ranting about this and that. If you can’t pay then let them develop their land. You sound like a guy who favors eminent domain for private development.
    Scary. Very scary indeed.

    • Captain_Anon

      Once again Jerry, you put words in my mouth or associate ideas to me that i don’t agree with. I’m not a fan of eminent doman used for private projects. as for your point, i’d be all for paying them to not develop as long as we create a tax that funds such payments. perhaps a sales tax on the sale of any private property to pay for payments of M37 claims.

      how dare i give my opinion on oregon politics? Oh, i live here and i dare! i dare! why are you so insensed when you live in arkansas?

      and the city of La Pine did opt to pay property owners who made a M37 claim. and guess what? that family bitched and complained about it! crazy!

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