Posted by: Patricia Salkin | August 29, 2007

Report Concludes Oregon’s Land Use Regulations Have Not Unfairly Burdened Property Owners

Oregon has been ground zero for property rights activists since Measure 37 was approved by the voters in 2004.  This law, which requires state or local governments to pay compensation, or waive the regulation when the land use regulation “restricts the use of private real property…and has the effect of reducing the fair market value of the property….” has been interpreted to require compensation or a waiver whenever a land regulation restricts property development to any degree. The reality is that almost all Measure 37 claims have resulted in waivers of regulations as opposed to payments.  Land use regulators have watched in dismay as Oregon’s nationally noted land use system has faced the reality of potential dismantling. There are plenty of websites and blogs, articles and media accounts that continue to debate why Oregonians passed the ballot initiative, that predict whether it will last, and that discuss attempted copycat initiatives in other states.              

To help inform the ongoing debate surrounding Measure 37, the Georgetown Environmental Law & Policy Institute at Georgetown University Law Center (GELPI) has just released a report analyzing how land use regulations (and government programs generally) have affected the value of private property in Oregon.  The study involved collection and analysis of data on trends in Oregon land values over a thirty-five year period.  The Executive Summary claims that the central premise of Measure 37, that regulatory restrictions of development reduce property values, has not been subjected to rigorous economic and empirical analysis. Therefore, the report suggests that should this premise prove incorrect, Measure 37 could be transferring substantial windfalls to owners who have suffered little or no adverse effect from land use regulations. The report also points to factors other than land use regulations that influence rural property values, including tax policies favoring agricultural landowners and subsidies for agricultural operators. The report concludes that Measure 37 does not promote economic fairness, but rather confers windfalls on owners eligible to file claims without clear evidence of injury. The authors argue that the constitutional takings standard would result in fairer economic results than Measure 37.  

The report was written by John D. Echeverria, Executive Director of the GELPI. Prof. Ford Runge, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Applied Economics and Law at the University of Minnesota designed the empirical research effort and edited the report.  Professors Andrew Plantinga and William Jaeger of Oregon State University collected and took the lead in analyzing the data presented in the report.  The report, entitled, Property Values and Oregon Measure 37: Exposing the False Premise of Regulation’s Harm to Landowners, is available at:

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