After nearly forty years, no other state in the Union has adopted statewide land use laws. Yet, Oregonians continue to falsely believe these laws are necessary as they currently exist. An entire generation has not been exposed to the freedoms of property rights, so many Oregonians have no comprehension of what could be accomplished without these laws. They see only the dangers of the unknown. However, a variety of bills filed this session indicate the legislature may be grasping the absurdities of Oregon’s land use system.
The bills range from clarifying activities allowed on lands classified for Exclusive Farm Use to creating five regional land use boards for appeal of local decisions. Many bills have yet to receive hearings; but during testimony on HB 2181, one couple illustrated the effects of lost property rights and economic freedom. Before statewide land use laws, this young couple invested in land for their retirement, but they lost the right to develop that land until the passage of Measure 37. Nearing retirement, they plowed through the bureaucratic process to develop their land. Each appeal forced them to spend the remainder of their retirement monies. They eventually won their case, but not without great financial cost.
Oregon land use laws are a travesty and must be changed. Hopefully, progress will be made this legislative session so Oregonians can regain their property rights.
Karla Kay Edwards is Rural Policy Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute. She has held positions of leadership in numerous organizations focusing on agricultural and rural industries and issues, including the Fresno (California) Farm Bureau, Washington Cattlemen’s Association, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture.