Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 11.01.07

Unintended Consequences
Measure 49 deals with serious flaws in Measure 37
By Rep. Phil Barnhart

As I traveled around my district hosting town halls and meeting with my constituents in preparation for the 2007 session, one message came up again and again: “Fix Measure 37.” From Creswell to Marcola, Pleasant Hill to Brownsville, the people I represent are were frightened by the unintended consequences of Measure 37, and furious that individual landowners have lost their property rights in favor of big industrial and commercial developers.

That message persisted throughout the early stages of the 2007 Legislative session, even as the Joint Committee on Land Use Fairness convened, and began working to answer some of the serious complaints we were hearing. Small land owners and families were seeing their property at risk and their way of life endangered by the large corporate subdivisions and commercial complexes going up around them. Farmers, foresters, and vineyard owners were seeing their livelihoods (and crucial areas of Oregon’s economy) threatened by rapid, unrestricted development. In public hearing after public hearing, Oregonians from all walks of life, all political persuasions, and with a variety of stakes in Oregon’s land use future made it clear- Measure 37 had several fatal flaws, and they insisted that the Legislature help fix it. Not do away with it, but fix it.

The law passed by the 2007 Legislature was referred to the ballot to make sure that even after the hours and hours of public testimony, the voters have the final say. The result is Ballot Measure 49. Ballot Measure 49 provides a balanced, fair, considerate, and well reasoned approach to protecting the rights of all Oregon land owners.

One thing stands out the most in this November’s elections: wealthy individuals and large out-of-state corporations believe they have a lot at stake, and they’re willing to say anything and spend any amount trying to stop Oregonians from determining on their own what is in their best interest. Whether it’s tobacco companies trying to stop Measure 50, or large development companies and speculators trying to stop Measure 49, Oregonians have been fed a line time and again this fall. It’s time for us to stand up to this type of bullying from large special interests.

A great deal of misinformation has been spread about Measure 49 by the big developers who stand to benefit most from its failure. If you ask your neighbors who are having their wells sucked dry or seeing tract housing and strip malls go in next to their family farms, they will tell you a different story.

The fact is, Measure 49 specifically includes increased protections for landowners wishing to build up to three houses on their land. Their claims will be fast-tracked so they won’t be held up by red tape and bureaucracy as they begin to build. Measure 49 will also ensure that development rights can be transferred from parents to children, from spouse to spouse, or from seller to buyer.

Measure 49 actually goes further than Measure 37 when it comes to protecting small landowners. But it takes crucial steps to protect Oregon from becoming another Los Angeles, Atlanta or Las Vegas.

We have a great opportunity this November to protect our neighbors, and our state’s vital farm and forestland from unbridled sprawl and development and protect our farmers and woodlot owners. We can return balance and fairness to our land use system. Please vote yes on Ballot Measure 49 to protect our Oregon way of life.

State Rep. Phil Barnhart represents House District 11, including central Lane and Linn counties.