Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Land Use Law controversy over

The controversy surrounding a measure in Oregon that protected property owners from state regulation that would devalue their land is now settled.  The Oregon Supreme Court finally gave it the thumbs up, and so ends the litigation (at least regarding the law itself).  The decision was unanimous also, which will make it hard to argue that there are lingering legal problems with it.

The Oregonian article notes that this will spur a major change in the state’s approach to planning.  Up until now it’s been focused on reserving land, either for agriculture or environment, and concentrating growth in cities.  That’s certain to change, but planning activists, like those at 1000 Friends of Oregon, say things like, “this state will mar a landscape protected by three decades of careful planning.”

I don’t think you are going to get there, but the landscape is going to change significantly from the direction it was currently taking.  I think the property owners are correct here, that with practically unrestricted government control over what they could do with their land, they were trampling some basic American principles, and I think that no one should have been surprised that there was enough support to get the current trend of government control reversed.   They won’t be able to reverse this new trend without some very hard battles and some very heavy losses.  Either we are going to get a compete revolt here and the government won’t be able to protect and manage anything, or we go back to being OK with limiting one of the founding freedoms that was at the root of what Jefferson, Madison and the rest were trying to accomplish with the Great Experiment.  The challenge for Oregon land use planners is to move forward and try to achieve reasonable goals in the new land use environment.

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