Within weeks, Oregonians will get voters’ guides and ballots for the November election. According to the Oregon Secretary of State’s office, the Voters’ Guide will have more arguments for and against legislative referral, Measure 49, than any measure in recent history.
And if you’re planning on reading the measure: you might consider inviting an attorney over for a cup of coffee, because the referral is more than twenty pages of dense legal language.
Rob Manning reports on how supporters and opponents are appealing to voters.
First the basics: Measure 49 limits the development allowed under property compensation initiative, Measure 37. It changes the process for reviewing claims, and addresses the measure's legal uncertainties.
More generally, Measure 49 supporters want to convince voters Measure 37 went too far.
37 passed three years ago, in part, because people sympathized with elderly property owners who couldn’t build on their land. Now, it’s farmers, and in particular, the wine industry, seeking sympathy for a “yes” vote.
Winter’s Hill Winery owner, Russell Gladhart says potential development in Yamhill County could be devastating.
Russell Gladhart: “There’s no one subdivision that would put our company out of business. The impact will be seen in hundreds and hundreds of subdivisions across the whole county. At first, they’ll make it a no longer desirable place to come and visit. And two, the cumulative impact on our water supply, on our road system, that is going to decrease our ability to stay in busine.”
Joe Robison: “Well, that’s just a hollow argument, I mean the wine industry, my God.”
Joe Robison is a Measure 37 claimant. He lives near Newberg with his wife, on Parrot Mountain -- a couple of miles from the Chehalem vineyard.
Joe Robison: “I can’t see where that’s a great benefit to society, that production of alcohol is so important. How would Oregonians feel if we said, well, we have to set aside 25 percent of Oregon to grow tobacco? I think quite a few lives have been shortened by both products.”
Putting a cork in the wine debate just for a minute, the Robisons argue that Measure 49 tramples over property rights all over again – just like land-use laws were doing before Measure 37. The Robisons filed for permission to build up to 17 houses.
Marla Robison says Measure 49 would allow her two.
Maria Robison: “OK, so I sell a couple of parcels to support my retirement, but that leaves my children with nothing – because I can’t say you can have a piece and you can have a piece, and I have three children.”
The Robisons argue that voters should defeat Measure 49, and let Measure 37, and market forces determine development.
Supporters of Measure 49, though, say that the free market has already meant problems. Business owner Nancy Ponzi says a nearby landfill is interfering with her wine tasting operation.
Nancy Ponzi: “Measure 37 would increase this landfill by 80 acres, doubling its footprint. For us, it’s a disaster, it’s a disaster right now, with Measure 37, it’s impossible.”
Both Ponzi and Russell Gladhart suggest that it's not just wine production – but the budding wine tourism industry itself – that's at risk. They argue what's really threatening the industry is sprawl.
Opponent, Joe Robison, says he hears the same complaints about growth from his neighbors.
Joe Robison: “They’ve got theirs, and by God, no one else is going to have something like it. They’ve got it where they can sit and look across Marla’s land and see the mountains, sometimes see cows. What would happen if they had to see another house? The valley’s still there, the mountains are still there.”
The Robisons say the debate over Measure 49, and Measure 37 before it, have pitted neighbor against neighbor, all over Parrot Mountain.
Joe Robison: “Well, I know, it’s totally torn apart the community on the mountain, this issue.”
Marla Robison: “Yeah, you know, Neighbor against neighbor.”
Joe Robison: “We’d never had a confrontation.
Marla Robison: “We’d always stuck together.”
Joe Robison: “And, now it’s nasty, and that shouldn’t happen.”
As for the outcome of Measure 49, since it was referred by legislative Democrats, and opposed by Republicans, it may well break along party lines. But OPB political analyst, Bill Lunch, says that means independents could be vital.
Bill Lunch: “The key to this is going to be how those independents, or those who declined to state on their voter registration break, how they vote, in this situation.”
Regardless of the outcome of the Measure 49 vote, the debate over land-use and property rights in Oregon is probably not going to be settled. A law suit involving the measure’s ballot title language will likely come before a judge in state court, if the measure passes.