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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Oregon Voters Overturn Sneaky Developer Windfall Law

Voting 62% in favor in last November 2007’s statewide election, Oregonians chose to overturn a law that allowed developers to sue the government for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages for restrictive zoning regulations.

Their vote overturns the November 2004 approval by state voters of Measure 37, which simply stated, allowed developers to demand huge payments from the taxpayers anytime the government limited what developers could do with their land.

The group that originally sponsored Measure 37, Oregonians In Action, has posted a furious rebuttal to the turnabout by the voters. Read it at

The campaign to pass Measure 37 masked the true beneficiaries of the proposal. Ads prominently featured a 92 year old grandmother who had been prevented from breaking up her land to give to her children. But the real beneficiaries of Measure 37 were big landowners, who, in Portland, for example, demanded $250 million from the City which had scaled down their development rights.

California voters in November of 2006 faced Proposition 90, which would have similarly required the public to pay any landowner who felt that the government had devalued their land. Voters here rejected it by 53% No, 47% yes. Proposition 90 was also a stealth measure in that it included a populist-themed ban on the government using its eminent domain powers to forcibly buy private land if the land was to be resold to another private developer, but also included the payment to landowners for any government regulations.

Coming up in the June 2008 California election are two measures that deal with eminent domain.

Proposition 98 is similar to Proposition 90 and also aims to wipe out rent control.

Proposition 99 is only aimed at halting the ability of the government to forcibly buy private property to sell to developers.



See for maps of Oregon landowners who were to receive the windfall from Measure 37.

See for stories on local effects of Measure 37.


(a summary from

The law enacted by Measure 37 allows property owners whose property value is reduced by environmental or other land use regulations to claim compensation from state or local government. If the government fails to compensate a claimant within two years of the claim, the law allows the claimant to use the property under only the regulations in place at the time he/she purchased the property

As of March 12, 2007, 7,562 Measure 37 claims for compliance payments or land use waivers had been filed spanning 750,898 acres statewide in Oregon.[24]

The claims filed include mobile home parks in sacred native burial grounds, shopping malls in farmland, and gravel pit mines in residential neighborhoods. There are no provisions in the law that public notice must be provided to neighboring property owners when a claim is filed. Because municipalities can not afford the billions in compensation, the laws have been waived in every case. (See: for more information.)

Claims filed in Portland, Oregon, by December 4, 2006, totalled over $250 million. Many of these claims were filed by major area land developers.

in 2007, the Oregon legislature placed Measure 49 on the November 6, 2007 special election ballot. It passed with 62% in favor.[29][30] The measure overturns and modifies many of the provisions of Measure 37.[31] The Legislature stated that it would restrict the damaging effects of Measure 37 by limiting some of the development that measure permitted.[32]

This measure protects farmlands, forestlands and lands with groundwater shortages in two ways.

First, subdivisions are not allowed on high-value farmlands, forestlands and groundwater- restricted lands. Claimants may not build more than three homes on such lands.

Second, claimants may not use this measure to override current zoning laws that prohibit commercial and industrial developments, such as strip malls and mines, on land reserved for homes, farms, forests and other uses.


Measure 37 hammers Portland

Some of city’s richest make land-use claims, which now total $250 million

The Portland Tribune, December 19, 2006

The city of Portland is facing $250 million worth of legal claims filed just before a key Measure 37 deadline.

“It’s our worst fears, it really is,” said Chris Dearth, who heads the city’s Measure 37 program. “It affects all parts of the city. … Many, many neighborhoods will be seriously affected by this.”

Measure 37, approved by voters in 2004, allowed landowners to file claims for compensation for decreased property value caused by regulations. The influx was prompted by a Dec. 4 deadline to claim past damages.

The claims undermine the city planning process and could “change the face of the city,” Dearth said.

It’s not just the dollar figure and the potential impact to Portland neighborhoods that make the claims filed under the state’s property rights law noteworthy. In contrast to the Measure 37 poster child, then-92-year-old Dorothy English, the new claims are being filed by some very prominent figures – such as companies owned by Jay Zidell and Mark Hemstreet – using some of the city’s most well-heeled law firms.

“It’s a whole new ball game,” Dearth said. “It’s not the mom and pop, Dorothy English-style claim anymore.”

The biggest claim, filed by Zidell for his South Waterfront properties, is for about $120 million. He has put his claim on hold while he negotiates with the city over his development plans. …

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