49 affects all Oregonians

PoliticsPortland economist Randall Pozdena authored a powerful commentary about Measure 49 in the Portland Tribune on Tuesday. It hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves.

A key passage reads:

Like the human peonage laws of the past, property takings impoverish some at the whim of a power elite. Oregonians need to abandon the snatch-and-grab politics that underlie Measure 49.

Read the entire commentary at: 49 affects all Oregonians

Steve Buckstein is Senior Policy Analyst and founder of Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland-based think tank.

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Posted by at 11:49 | Posted in Measure 37 | 26 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Bad Boy Brown

    While I fully agree with Mr. Podenza; the fact remains that most people in Oregon don’t really care about Measure 49 – as evidenced by the number of ballots submitted so far.

  • Rob Wilcox

    When we moved back to Oregon in 1955, after my father was injured in a sawmill, we could only afford to live in the country, that’s where the poor people lived. In the early 70’s you could buy 5 acres of land for about $5,000. Some of the old timers didn’t beleive it would ever get above $1000 per acre. Now 5 acres in the Molalla area is at least $200,000 up to $250,000. Now let’s see thats about 40 to 50 times more now than then. you could buy a small house in Molalla for about $15,000, the same house now is about $200,000 to $225,000 thats about 13 to 15 times 1970’s values. Why the disparity I wonder? I’m an appraiser and have talked to a lot of land owners who say there is no way they could afford to buy their own property at today’s prices. I know, some of you elitists claim that supply and demand have no bearing on land prices that somehow when you decrease the supply and increase the demand it has no effect on price. Boy do I have some stuff to sell you!

    In time, as the current generations pass on, the only people that will be able to afford country living will be the wealthy, and with the passing of each generation it will become more and more noticeable that we have a class or feudal system perpetuated by those do gooders who could care less about property rights and want to preserve the country for those with considerable wealth. Of course they will have the opportunity to drive by and admire the mansions, but heaven forbid if they wanted to actually live in the country. Oh yeah, they could be servants, right?

  • Trevor Stewart


    I am glad to see the concern for all of us non-property owners who do have a stake in Measure 49 but I think you and Mr. Buckstein are very mistaken about what is at stake for all of us (landowners and non-landowners alike)

    But your post about rising land values raises an issue that rarely enters the debate about Measure 37 and Measure 49: few real estate investors of any reasonable intelligence have lost money from owning land in Oregon. It is a mistake to put all one’s financial assets in real estate, but the vast majority of landowners are nevertheless financially secure by the mere fact that they own land and will do quite well in selling their land.

    Indeed a recent study by the OSU extension service found “no evidence of a generalized reduction in value caused by Oregon’s land-use regulations, a result that is consistent with economic theory
    and with other research in the economics field.” This finding holds for “both for rural lands zoned for farm and forest use and for developable lands both inside and outside of urban growth boundaries (UGBs).” See:


    In my experience a close examination of individuals who claim to have lost financially from “zoning laws” usually reveals that either 1.) this is simply not true or 2.) they made very bad investment decisions. If a landowner has unjustly lost value Measure 49 will afford them more than reasonable development rights and financial return (up to 10 homes per site and 20 homes statewide).

    The politically incorrect truth that no one seems to mention is that landowners on either side of the Measure 37 debate are not victims, they are in fact the privileged.

    We should not forgo our collective self-interest and right to plan our communities and safeguard against land abuse in order to guarantee profitable returns to a few land speculators who have made bad investment decisions. That is what will happen if we do not reform Measure 37 now by passing Measure 49.

    Land is a finite resource that is subject to increasing pressure due to population growth and increasing per-capita consumption of natural resources. Land is no just an asset or an investment as many Measure 37 backers assert. It is part of a interdependent society and ecosystem. Hence we all have a stake in what any individual does with his or her land.

    The system of land-use planning that Measure 49 would leave intact also supports legitimate public values such as protection water quality, wildlife, and public health and safety. It also supports legitimate public goals like fostering healthier, walkable communities that are more efficiently to service with public resources (which translates into lower taxes).

    Measure 49 brings back a degree of balance to the land-use planning system in Oregon. It provides landowners with added opportunities to develop while retaining our collective ability- through our state and local government- to plan the future of our communities and thereby protect our property values.

    Oregonians have done this successfully for over 30 years. We should not give up now. I urge my fellow citizens to vote yes on Measure 49.


    Trevor Stewart

    • Randall Pozdena

      Hi Trevor:

      Your remarks are very throughtful. Land is, indeed, an inelastically-supplied resource and land values do rise with increasing economic activity. Henry George made this observation in the 19th century and even proposed a “single tax” to capture this appreciation to fund government.

      Even Henry George would be horrified, however, by the selective nature of the “taxation” for public purposes that is implicit in Oregon land use laws. It is patently inequitable that certain landowners should bear the exclusive burden of a broader, public benefit. Indeed, if it were done with a Georgian tax, it would be unconstitutional under the “equal taxation of equals” provisions of the US Constitution.

      If it were not land, but human capital, that was at issue, the cruel nature of land takings would be clearer still. The value of human capital, like land, also rises with economic activity. But no one would tolerate a policy under which some of us were told were could not exploit the rising value of our labor and that, instead, we had to conintue menial labor “in the broader public interest”. Such illogic was the economic basis of the slavery, peonage, and caste systems taht civilized societies have rejected.

      The Founding Fathers recognized that individual property rights could be at odds, in some cases, with the common good. But they also recognized that that property rights were the very embodiment of human liberty. Thus, they sharply circumscribed takings: there must be a true, common benefit of the taking, and the owner of the property must be compensated for the full value of the private opportunities lost. The Dolan case reaffirmed this before the US Supreme Court. Oregon is flaunting both constitutional principle and case law.

      My argument against 49 is that it rejects the principle of full and fair compensation for takings. Instead, it preserves a process that makes the supply of sites allowed for development more costly, with no accounting or test of the justification. I hope the youth of our region will wake up to the selective implications to them of Oregon’s feudal attitude toward property rights and liberty.

      Best, Randy.

    • Jay Bozievich


      You offer a false choice. Measure 37 does not “forgo our collective self interest and right to plan”. It only requires that the collective compensate the individual property for taking wealth in the form of private property for the percieved benefit of the collective.

      You just want to preserve the power of government to confiscate property without compensation, not the land planning.

      Vote NO on 49!

    • carol

      “Up to 10 homes per site, and 20 homes statewide” Will you please quote me the page on the 24 pages of the measure, or at least the section, where this is guaranteed. I have read the full 24 pages several times, and I haven’t seen this yet. If you will tell me where I can find that guarantee, it would be so helpful to me, I have looked for a reasonable part of the measure, and I think you have saved me the trouble of digging further. Just the page, or section where it is found, please. Thanks

      • Anonymous

        you aren’t guaranteed anything under measure 37

  • FHL

    I agree with Bad Boy Brown. People don’t care about measure 49.

    That’s because it makes sense to most people who don’t have either a personal stake in getting public money to cover their bad investments or an ideological barrier to anything that isn’t approved by the right wing nut jobs who do their thinking for them.

  • Rob Wilcox

    I agree with you property values as a whole have gone up. As they say, figures can,t lie, the problem is liars can figure. There si no way you can tell me that my friend Don did not lose after he legally divided his 140 acres into 20 acere parcels, then the state re-zoned his land and told him he couldn’t sell them. He paid for surveys, permit fees, etc. Then, under M37 we voted as a state to allow him to sell his lots, he paid for more permit fees, attorneys, appraisals etc. Now for the good of the state you are telling him he can’t sell his seven 20 acre lots but must re-survey, and cluster three two acre lots somewhere on his property. He is in his upper 70’S ahow long willit take him to get a new survey, new septic approvals, ne permits, etc,etc,etc. And forget about the 10 lot exception, there is hardly any land left in the valley that would qualify, its a ruse and you know it. For some reason you have taken the human element out of this total equation. That has been disastrous in other countries that have failed, but that is a whole different story. For the good of the “state” you are willing to take these few older people and throw them under the bus, you probably don’t like collateral damage in Iraq but you are willing to accept it here in Oregon if it is for the good of the state. Theese hardworking Oregonians started their claims with the belief that the people of Oregon had allowed them the right to proceed. They have spent three years spending money that the counties have required of them, not only permit fees, but traffic studies, septic approvals, and the county has required they build roads to a certain standard, install water lines, fire hydrants, etc,etc. and they were doing this because we told them that they could, that it was legal. they trusted us, it was a promise as far as I’m concerned. And now one side of our state government has taken it upon itself to draft a measure as confusing as possible, with a title weighted to the left to tell thes people where they can go, and toss them a bone, which they will have to pay for of course. Why wasn’t this brought by initiative petition? I think because there would be too much controversy and the public would find out what is happening to these elderly law abiding citizens.

    • Anonymous


      the first question i would ask is, when did he acquire his property? anything from 1975 on is going to have limits on what you can do with the land since the state had rules in place at that time, even if cities and counties didn’t adopt rules yet. but these rules didn’t get developed in a vacuum. substantial public notice and participation occured. ifyour friend didn’t pay attention, who’s fault is that? that’s like saying someone who bought stocks but didn’t watch the tv and get the news the company was about to dive bomb or didn’t read the annual report should be compensated.

      if he is allowed his measure 37 claim, then yes, he should pay for all the traffic studies and septic approvals and all those things everyone else pays for when subdividing property.

      what you and so many are forgeting in this whole thing is the state attorny general said LONG ago that dividing land under measure 37 was not a valid use because you can’t transfer measure 37 rights – as the text of the measure makes clear by stating “owner.” there have been several court cases around the state to back this up. measure 49 would allow him to divide and build and SELL. Measure 37 will not.

  • Rob Wilcox

    That’s because it makes sense to most people who don’t have either a personal stake in getting public money to cover their bad investments or an ideological barrier to anything that isn’t approved by the right wing nut jobs who do their thinking for them.

    Gee FHL,
    I’m not afraid to post my name. and by the way, why isn’t it equall valid to say that the pro 49rs who bought their land prior to M37 shouldn’t suffer the consequences of their investments? It was the people of Oregon that brought us M37 and voted for it, not a bunch of leftwing politicians and big money from wealthy transplants to Oregon. Tell me again about suffering consequences, it’s just for the hardworking elderly, not the wealthy or leftwingers, right?

    • FHL

      This makes no sense.

      Instead of feeling like to have to respond to every single post you disagree with, why not think through one intelligent point and take some time to articulate it. (Though your chicken story is amusing and a good bit of reading, I’ll admit).

      BTW…I don’t use my real name because I don’t want to be googled and stalked by fans of the NRA. Anyway, why do you care? For that matter what stops you from making up the name you use here?

      Who is FHL? Only the Shadow Knows.

      • Rob Wilcox

        Thanks for the reply. There is a reason for using my real name, it’s called honesty, novel idea eh. The point I was making is a lot of pro49rs keep saying that people who bought before zoning basically made a bad investment, too bad that they can’t use their land as they hoped. Now there are a bunch of people who purchased property prior to the passage of M37 complaining that a subdivision or house is going to be built next to them and it may effect their value or the possibility of expanding their farm. I haven’t heard anybody saying they should just suffer the consequences of their investment. Shouldn’t it go both ways? Is that clear enough?

        • FHL

          I guess. I think we agree on some core ideas. The disagreement comes when you have to decide where to place the division between two compelling desires.

          I do think people should have freedom to use their property. However, people should also be able to collectively create and enforce use laws which protect their community. To me, that is a valid role for representative government, and people shouldn’t have to be compensated for every restriction placed on them by the community in which they live.

          If I decided I wanted to build an adult bookstore (or rendering plant, or chromium plating business) next door to my local elementary school would you feel like fair play required the city to compensate me in order to forbid it? I don’t think land use laws require apologies or compensation for every (or any) disallowed hypothetical use.

          Take a look at communities where weak zoning occurs. Cities rot from the core outward as development continues in an ever-expanding donut around the central city. Cleavland is a great example.

          The way an individual uses their property can create harm beyond their fence. If you turn your arguments back on the individual, shouldn’t he compensate his neighbors for decreasing the value of their property?

          Maybe that is the net effect of land use laws.


          • Rob Wilcox

            I also think we agree on more than I thought initially. I’m not proposing we do away with all of our land use restrictions. Although I do beleive they need an overhaul. My main concern is M49 and the way it was brought to a vote. I beleive the Dems were so infuriated that they were trumped by M37 that they came up with this ill-conceived measure that hurts a lot of older Oregonians that have put all or most of their retirement into a process that was legal. The counties required permit fees, traffic studies, septic approvals, roads to be built to specific standards and on and on. Now just before completion of the projects they basically gut M37. It’s real easy to say, well they can change all of their plans and come up with three clustered 2 acre lots or they can challenge the government and pay for all appraisals, theirs and the governments, whether they win or lose. Then if anyone in the USA elects to sue they again are stopped. It’s a bad measure. M37 needed some tweaking but didn’t need to be gutted. I know a lot about the struggles of these elderly M37 applicants because my mother is one of them.

          • carol

            What you are saying is so true. M49 goes too far, and I fear that if it passes, nothing else will be done, and we’ll actually have more restriction than before. The sky is NOT falling. However at this stage, it’s too late to change any votes.

          • FHL

            You guys have opened my mind to thinking about this differently. It is very compelling to hear about individuals who have staked a lot on a certain set of policies only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them. My vote has already been cast, but I guess I would have thought harder about it.

            I feel like the initiative and referendum processes are almost always bad routes for making public policy. This is especially true when you are faced with a measure that significantly harms a minority in order to give a majority something it demands. People just don’t have the time and inclination to learn everything they need to know to make an informed decision. That is the role for representative government.

            Maybe we need a new set of rules in Oregon. It seems like we aren’t well served by the status quo. I can’t imagine where you’d begin, but perhaps thinking about it is a start.

            Thanks for the dialog.


          • Steve Buckstein

            FHL, when you worry about a measure that “…harms a minority in order to give a majority something it demands” you are bringing up the point in today’s post by Kathryn Hickock, “The Exception That Makes the Rule” at https://www.oregoncatalyst.com/index.php?/archives/958-The-Exception-That-Makes-the-Rule.html.

            I don’t believe this is a problem with the initiative and referendum system so much as it’s a problem with democratic politics in general. Letting two wolves and a sheep vote on what to have for lunch is a bad deal for the sheep whether the wolves are legislators or neighbors.

          • FHL

            Very well said.

            An essential part of our system is the check on the tyranny of the majority. All we have to balance that is the constitution–screw that up and it’s over. It does seem like they are chipping away at it: recent trends of ideologue jurists, a more powerful executive, and, worst of all, a general indifference for the rule of law. Maybe we’ll swing back the other way. Maybe.

  • Marvin McConoughey

    The debates over Measure 49 obscures a larger issue: Is it possible under any plausible set of laws to stop the adverse impact of population growth? Population doubles every few decades and how can Oregon continually increase population without impacting our quality of life? I have yet to see a reasoned, helpful response to this issue.

    • FHL

      I agree. At some point the whole continuous growth economy will hit a wall. Many problems would go away if the world had half the people in it. But how do convince people to stop having children?

      The zero pop growth experiment in China makes me think you can get significant economic gains without relying on the continual increase of population. However, I don’t think their methodology would work in a democracy.

      When I was a kid population growth was always mentioned as the number one problem facing the world. As the developed world began having small families people sort of stopped focusing on it. It is still a train wreck looming in all our futures. We might be farther from the lead cars, but we are still riding in the train.


  • Rob Wilcox

    Dear Trevor, FHL, Jared,Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey and the rest of you who are afraid of independent thinking.

    When I was a teenager I worked on a chicken farm, there were thousands of chiekens in one barn. It was imperative that we seal the barn tightly, because if a sparrow or a swallow entered the barn the chickens would quit their feeding and milling around and flock to the far end of the barn, piling up on each other and eventually suffocating many, all out of fear of nothing.

    well here it is in real life, M37 doesn’t do away with Oregon farming as we know it as some proclaim, signs stating “endless sprawl”, stripmines or gravines, and on and on and on. M37 doesn’t do away with SB 100 and you know it. Good Ol’Foxy Loxy has got you running to the end of the barn over bsically a minor dent in our millions of Acres of Oregon. Ollie’s four lots in Colton that she has spent $90,000 to develop on 8 Acres and Dons 7 lots in Molalla on 140 Acres won’t put a dent in our way of life. Most of the claims are similar to these, and you are willing to throw these hard working elderly Oregonians under the bus because good Ol’ Foxy Loxy in the form of our Power Hungry Democrats and also in the form of very wealthy vinters who have contributed over a million dollars to get all you Chicken Littles to preserve their neighbors property for their future expansion ( the words of one vinter and probably of others). The sky isn’t falling with M37, you won’t even notice unless your are a vintner trying to keep your neighbor from developing so he can at some time snatch up a his farm, talk about greed! Again, don’t throw these elderly Oregonians under the bus, vote NO to protect the rights we gave them.

    “Rob Wilcox”

    • carol

      Couldn’ta said it better myself!!

  • Ted Kennedy’s Liver

    it always amazes me to see the same people who argue that restrictive zoning in rural areas does not negatively impact property values agree that less restrictive zoning in urban areas increases property values.

    If you are honestly too stupid to realize that restrictive zoning lessens property value, don’t worry, it won’t be an issue for you – you’ll never accumulate enough money to purchase a home. You’ll be renting from someone who does understand economics.

    • dean

      An imposed restriction would impact property value, but only if there were actually a market demand for the restricted use. i.e. dissalowing a WallMart on forest land in the middle of the coast range won’t affect property values.

      One economic problem with M37 all along is the assumption that a land use that was allowed 30 years ago, when it had zero economic value (or it would have been implemented back then) should now be re-allowed today, when the market is totally different.

      Zoning was invented TO PROTECT property values. Regulating land uses across the board, the end result is usually an overall increase in property values for the community at large. Sure, if I am unrestricted while my still neighbor is, that will raise my values, but is that right?

  • Anonymous


    Since you’re an appriaser, how would you appraise a Measure 37 Claim to divide land that cannot be transfered to someone else? once the ‘owner’ dies or sells the new lots, the claim goes bye bye? is that claim then worth anything?

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