Monday, February 27, 2006

No end in sight

Believers in the Oregon land use regulation regime were sorely disappointed that the state Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling claiming that Measure 37 -- the ballot initiative passed in 2004 that gives landowners either compensation or broad leeway to develop outside the zoning framework -- was unconstitutional. Oregonians in Action, the triumphant property rights group that so successfully campaigned for the measure, framed the Marion County Circuit Court ruling as the work of activist judges. In basic terms, what the ruling said was that the measure created a special class of people and ran afoul of other constitutional processes. But the high court rejected the premise, and 1000 Friends of Oregon, the organizers of the lawsuit prompting the ruling, said it would not appeal. 1000 Friends is working on other ways to limit what the group says is Measure 37's most problematic consequences. Oregonians in Action, meanwhile, is back in victory-lap mode. "I'm surprised and relieved and hopeful again," the group's top lawyer, Ross Day, told Laura Oppenheimer of The Oregonian. "We had law, fact and common sense on our side. But I was still wondering if we were going to win." This battle is obviously far from over -- not in Oregon, not in nearby Washington, which is looking at a similar ballot measure for the fall, nor across the nation. I vaguely expected the Oregon case would be taken all the way to the US Supreme Court -- which not incidentally agreed to hear two cases on the Clean Water Act, one of which is based on the grievances of landowners who were unable to build on their property.