Appeal is not delaying Measure 37 resolution

An article entitled "Some can't wait for land-use knot to untangle" published in the Feb. 17 Mail Tribune gave the impression that the resolution of a lawsuit brought by landowners under former Measure 37 against Jackson County is being delayed by an appeal filed by Jackson County and land-use advocacy organizations. Rogue Advocates, which is one of the five citizens organizations involved in the appeal, would like to offer its perspective to help clarify the situation.

Rogue Advocates became involved at the outset when it appeared that Jackson County was not going to intervene in the case. We believe the original decision made by Judge Panner last November was wrong and, if allowed to stand, would result in the irretrievable loss of a significant amount of farm and forest land in Jackson County. This would have a negative effect on our supporters living adjacent to these lands. Also, this decision would have statewide repercussions likely resulting in an end run around popularly supported Measure 49.

By appealing, we hope to bring certainty and closure to this unfortunate period in Oregon's history. To that end, we asked for expedited relief from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs have opposed this request and filed motions to have the case transferred back to District Court for further hearings, a move that will only delay the resolution of the case.

It is being claimed by some that the change to Measure 49 from Measure 37 has taken away their right to develop. This is not true. Even within these changing circumstances and recent court rulings, landowners have always had the option to go ahead with their claims under Measure 49. The fact that they have chosen not to pursue a claim under current state land-use law is not the fault of advocacy groups, Jackson County, the state of Oregon or the public at large.

In reality, the rights of these landowners have neither been taken away nor infringed upon by the state. Measure 37 was sold to Oregonians as a way for landowners with a hardship case to be allowed relief through limited development. However, it ended up opening the floodgates to development on resource lands across the state.

In simple terms, its authors and backers mislead voters and overreached. Oregonians resolved this problem by voting in Measure 49 by a 62 percent majority. This brought validity to the process since it allows limited development for relief but prevents the large-scale land conversions that Oregonians clearly never intended.

Too many people sought to take advantage of the vagaries in Measure 37 and ruined it for those with more reasonable aspirations. The proposals made for large residential subdivisions, strip malls and gravel mines threatened their neighbors' property interests. So now many of the people who championed former Measure 37 and gladly accepted the will of the people when it was in their favor are now crying foul when the will of the people has shifted to curb the worst of the abuses while still providing fair and just compensation.

Beyond the legal arguments of the moment however, lies the heart of the matter. How should our community manage its resources in a way that is as fair as possible for all citizens currently and in the future? This big picture idea is easy to consider but never easy to accomplish, since there are two fundamentally opposing philosophies vying for the seat at the head of the table.

On the one hand, the perspective is that property rights and value are derived from the individual. On the other hand, the view is that property rights and value derive from the individual and from a collective decision to install community supported land-use safeguards to manage limited resources like farm and forestland upon which we all depend. This must be done in a way that meets the present needs of our community without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

We inherited this land not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. Oregonians can achieve balance and reconcile these issues if we first get underneath the rhetoric and think rationally about our property rights. If we hope to pass on a livable and functioning environment to future generations, we have no other choice.

Jim MacLeod is executive director of Rogue Advocates, a nonprofit organization centered in Southern Oregon that works to preserve farmland, forestland and open space and educate the public about the importance of creating sustainable and livable communities.

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