Friday, November 26, 2004

Houston comes to Oregon

Ever since the U. S. Supreme Court decided in the 1920s that localities had to right to zone, they've been busy trying to plan development in a way that keeps incompatible uses such as a stamping plant and a residential neighborhood apart. But so-called property rights advocates say that development rules of any kind for environmental or planning reasons diminish their property values by restricting allowable uses.

Oregon property rights advocates now have a tool to fight back. A referendum passed by a 60/40 margin allows them to claim compensation for such restrictions or be relieved of those zoning and environmental rules that went into effect after the owners bought their land or, if the parcel is inherited, after their parents or grandparents bought it.

It seems unlikely that municipalities or the state will be able to pay the avalanche of claims. And so, Oregon, which has been known for its progressive land use laws and policies, could end up looking like Houston which has never had zoning.

Those who think this move represents freedom will soon find that what pops up next to them as a result won't make them feel free.

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