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Lessons from the Oregon Experience

Read an excerpt from this article below. You can download the full article by using the link at the end of the excerpt.

I live and work in Oregon. Until last November, our state was a proud leader in sound land use planning. To a great extent, many of us believed we would never overturn a system that was saving our farm and forest lands and empowering local governments to make wise decisions about where to site housing subdivisions and commercial and industrial developments. Our political leaders made speeches across the country lauding our efforts and delegations of planners and planning officials tread a well-worn path to our door to learn how they, also, could do it.

Then came the election of November, 2004, when Oregonians had the opportunity to vote on Measure 37, a citizen initiative. The result wreaked havoc with a system that had been in place for more than 30 years. By a 3 to 2 margin, voters said that anytime government regulations lower their property values, the offending entity either must compensate the property owner or waive the regulation.

The filings for redress by landowners who claim a state, local or even possibly federal law or rule has reduced the value of their property are already affecting state agencies and local planning commissions and city councils throughout Oregon. As there is no single standard on how to evaluate the effects of government actions on property values, hard-pressed communities are scurrying to figure it out for themselves. The Measure did not include additional funding and no community has yet chosen to dig into its own strained coffers to compensate a petitioning landowner. Instead, they are taking the second option: waiving the rules for specific applicants while worrying about the long-range effects of their actions.

Interesting, while many Oregonians responding to a recent scientific poll seem to be disenchanted with the state's land use governance system and, by a significant margin, say that private rights trump the "public good," they still rank protecting farmland and the environment very high. What is the meaning of this dichotomy? ...

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photo of Elaine CoganElaine Cogan, founding principal of the Portland, Oregon planning and communications firm of Cogan Owens Cogan, has consulted for more than 36 years with communities undertaking strategic planning and visioning processes. Cogan has been honored for her work on a variety of citizen involvement projects.

Cogan’s 52-page booklet, Now that You’re on Board: How to Survive … and Thrive … as a Planning Commissioner is available to PlannersWeb members to download at no extra charge (sorry, but it is not currently available in print).

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