Rep. Richardson: Fix M37–A promise is a promise.

Most Legislator’s list of key issues for this session included “Fix Measure 37.” In early February I wrote a newsletter entitled, Measure 37″”Voters’ Patience Running Thin. It contains a review of Measure 37’s history and a discussion regarding Senate Bill 505, which was a flawed bill that could not garner enough votes to get passed out of committee.

Like the story of the trolls where each one gets worse, Senate and House leadership now have proposed House Bill 3540A. This bill was passed out of committee on April 26th on a party-line vote.

Since Measure 37 passed in every Oregon county except one, you would think implementing the will of the people would be a bipartisan issue. It is bipartisan everywhere except here in the Capitol. Here in the heart of Salem the Capitol Mall has been described as “one square mile surrounded by reality.” In this surreal place there are many Legislators who remain convinced the voters were deceived by campaign rhetoric and duped into passing first Measure 7 and then, after it was invalidated due to a technicality, Measure 37. As a result, instead of bipartisan agreement on how to implement a two page ballot measure, we are now presented with House Bill 3540A.

House Bill 3540A is 22 pages of complex legalese that neuters the intent and thwarts the will of the many Oregon voters who passed Measure 37. For instance,

1. It eliminates all Measure 37 claims except a constricted number of single -family residential claims, cutting out all landowners who had industrial or commercial land claims;
2. It focuses on “compensation,” then makes the process to qualify so expensive and complicated that few will be able to comply with the requirements and perfect their claims; and
3. It subtly removes from Oregon counties the right for local decision making jurisdiction. The Bill states,
“If the department [DLCD] determines that the only land use regulations that restrict the claimant’s use of the property are regulations that were enacted by the county, the department shall transfer the claim to the county”¦.”
(HB 3540A, page 11; underlining added for emphasis)

Implicit in that statement is the directive that where there exists any state regulations that restrict the use of the claimant’s property, DLCD will retain jurisdiction in the State over those claims–which will be the vast majority.

The subtlety of HB 3540A continues. When I read legislative bills I am on guard for “the Hook.” The Hook is the discrete clause added or removed or the slight word change that has major and often unnoticed consequences. An example of a “Hook” in HB 3540A is found in Section 7. Section 7 governs those Measure 37 properties outside the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), that could possibly qualify for construction of a maximum of three dwellings””including existing dwellings””regardless of the size of the acreage. Notwithstanding pages of verbiage describing how a claimant with acreage outside the UGB can qualify for a maximum of three lots or dwellings, most of those Measure 37 claimants will get nothing. Their claims will be eviscerated by the following clause:
“(8) Relief may not be granted under this section if the highest and best use of the property was not residential use at the time the land use regulation was enacted.” (HB 3540A page 10, lines 7 and 8 )

Essentially, subparagraph (8) states that if there was some possible use for a landowner’s acreage that would have made that landowner’s property worth more that it was worth as a residence at the time land use law changes deprived the landowner from being able to build a dwelling, then that landowner will have no Measure 37 rights whatsoever. After reading subparagraph (8), I called a former County Attorney who is an expert in land use issues. I asked the following question:

“If a rural landowner needed to know what options were available to meet the definition of “˜highest and best non-residential use’ for his rural acreage, what uses would be on the list?” Off the top of his head he gave me a few alternatives:
– Golf course
– Cemetery
– Aggregate mine (sand and gravel)
– Rural commercial gas station, convenience store, etc.
– Wine Tasting Room (under certain circumstances)
– School
– Church (If more than 3 miles beyond UGB)
– Recreational Park (fishing ponds, hunting, mountain biking)
– Ecological Park
– Animal Reserve
– Dog kennel
– Shooting Range
– Privately Owned Campground (under certain circumstances)
– Resort
– Landing Strip for private aircraft
– Horse Stables
– Domestic Plant Nursery

Is the political game of HB 3540A becoming obvious? The Governor and his Legislative captains did not support Measure 37, did not vote for Measure 37, and since Measure 37 was passed in 2004 have delayed its implementation. Now public pressure and claims processing deadlines require our state leaders to take action and implement Measure 37. Their response is further obfuscation by presenting House Bill 3540A, a bill that will be sold as a solution, while delivering nothing but more expense, delay and broken promises to Oregon citizens. There are thousands of Oregon landowners, many of whom are quite elderly, who have jumped through every hoop, paid every fee and waited 2 ½ years for the promised land use relief for which the vast majority of Oregonians voted. Fortunately, House Bill 3540A has a troubled road ahead of it before it can come to a House floor vote. If it passes, it is to be referred to the voters for our approval. It is a bad bill that shows little respect for the citizens it is supposed to serve. Rather than requiring Oregonians to spend the time and effort to defeat HB 3540A at the ballot box, our State leaders should set aside their partisan politics and work to craft a meaningful solution and truly “Fix Measure 37″. After all, a promise is a promise.


Dennis Richardson
State Representative

  • Jerry

    PLEASE stop all attempts to mess with what the people decided. PLEASE.
    The politicos in Salem are all nuts. Just leave it alone.
    Enough is enough.
    If these fools had real jobs they wouldn’t waste so much time doing stuff that doesn’t need doing.
    What a pathetic, sad, hapless bunch…..

  • Bellstar

    I can not believe that our votes do not count….the legislatures are showing the people of Oregon who has the power…you can vote…but it doesn’t matter. They wonder why more people do not turn out to vote….BECAUSE IT DOESN’T MATTER!!! They will do what they want anyway. Not only that…they let this go far enough so that people invested there life savings into developing there property that was THERE PROPERTY….and they don’t have a problem sleeping knowing people are in a financial mess over this. Trust me….a lot of us haven’t slept much since this Land Use Fairness Committee started. We have rights don’t we??? This is America isn’t it?? STOP this craziest!!! Let us have our property back…we just want it back the way it was before you stole it. Ours is squirrel country…not farm…not forest…it was RR5. There was no reason they rezoned it EFU..except they could..It is time to give us our land back.

  • Tim Lyman

    Isn’t there the equivalent of a fillibuster at the state level?

    There is nothing about M37 that needs to be “fixed”.

    The D’s appear to be interpreting “fixed” the same way your vet does when you take the cat in to be “fixed.”

    Of course, even if there is the state equivalent of a fillibuster, it would require a Republican legislator who hasn’t been “fixed” to pull it off.


    It ain’t broke so don’t fix it! It’s working just the way I wanted it to when I voted for it!

  • Captain_Anon

    It’s been broke since the get go. the hundreds of lawsuits to get clarity on issues is proof. There DOES need to be a fix, and it was obvious the previous legislative session when those in Salem sat on thier asses too afraid to take the bold steps needed.

    As it stands, the courts will continue to issue judgements, and those judgements are heavily siding with local jurisdictions. So, if people want thier claims to get through, they need to support a fix to the law. perhaps not what is now coming out of committee. but they better get off thier butts. Each day that passes is a day the courts could, and have, ruled against land owners and thier claims. same is true with the counties and cities reviewing claims. once decided, they are done, can’t go back and revisit them. the legislature needs to make some common sense changes that will help undo the gridlock.


    Well, if the courts were siding so one sided with local goverments / jurisdictions I doubt anyone liberal in the state would want a change. Since the people are winning the opportunity to develop their land in droves I see know reason to change a thing.

    The ones doing the suing are the environmentalists and socialistic liberals (oxymoron).

    No my good Capt. no one is falling for the Crocodile Tears being shed by the legislature for us little people…well almost no one…

    Leave it the way it is, those of us who voted for it (61%) will just have to muddle through somehow without the government saving us……then again, had they done their job in the first place M-7 and M-37 wouldn’t have been necessary.

    • Captain_Anon

      well, tell that to the women who are being denied thier claims because they were never put on thier husbands deed documents until recently or just inherited thier husbands property. they don’t get any relief. tell that to the families who put thier farms into LLC’s or other companies. even though they’ve owned the land since the early 1900’s they are being denied thier measure 37 claims. it’s happening all over. Courts are ruling those changes in ownership. Seems like those are the people M37 was really for.

      may of the people may think they are “winning” the opportunity to develop but in reality are not. the state is issueing very vauge waivers. but the fine print is what will catch people. such as: the courts have ruled that counties and cities need to apply state goals directly if local jurisdictions didn’t have comp plans that were compliant with state rules. so a county’s code may have allowed a house but since the county will have to apply the goal directly, thier house request goes bye bye. state rules were in place in 1975 and most counties didn’t have comp plans that were compliant. so on their face, it looks like a win, but in reality, they will be shot down. so, without a fix, a whole heck of a lot of claims that were ‘approved’ will result in nothing. people are going to find out the hard way