New Oregon law takes aim at smart-growth rules, excites developers

Oregon’s recently passed Measure 37 is threatening to sprawlify the state, even as it acts as a model for property-firsters across the nation who want to ease development restrictions. The measure mandates that the government compensate private landowners if zoning or land-use restrictions reduce the value of their property. Or, if cash-strapped governments can’t afford to pay up, as is often the case, then they just can’t restrict zoning. Smart-growth laws in communities across the country (including Oregon, for now) try to direct development to areas with existing roads and infrastructure, to prevent needless loss of open space. But Oregon’s new law “has really excited the property-rights movement and suggests to its supporters that they can challenge smart-growth laws everywhere,” said urban-planning professor Harvey Jacobs. Property-rights advocates have introduced a nearly identical bill in the Montana legislature this year, and powerful farm and building interests are aiming to get a similar initiative on the ballot in Washington state.