Undaunted by the circuit court ruling in Oregon, the Washington Farm Bureau is drafting a similar voter initiative for Oregon’s northern neighbor. Like Oregon’s Measure 37, the Washington initiative would require state and local governments to compensate private property owners for regulatory restrictions that devalue their property.
“There’s this culture of conflict out there because agencies come in and say we’re putting a buffer on your land,” explained Dan Wood, director of government relations for the Washington Farm Bureau.”They just change the rules on people. When the landowners feel they’re being disrespected, it’s very natural that they get real worked up about that. What we’re going to say is let’s just change the approach.
“There’s nothing wrong with environmentalism,” Wood added. “It’s just environmentalism on the cheap, when we’re expecting the private landowner to pay for the public benefit, that we have a problem [with].”
Owners’ Resentment Strong
The Farm Bureau needs more than 200,000 signatures to place the initiative on the November 2006 ballot. The group expects to have the signatures in time to file the petition with the Washington secretary of state’s office in January. January is also when the Oregon Supreme Court will hear arguments regarding Measure 37.
According to Wood, although the two initiatives are very similar, there will be a few differences. Unlike Oregon’s Measure 37, which retroactively compensates landowners from the time each citizen acquired his or her property, the Washington initiative would compensate property owners for loss of property value only from the time of the November 2006 vote.
“There has been pent-up resentment toward inflexible, confiscatory property laws that place severe limits on citizens’ ability to fully enjoy and realize the full benefit of their property,” said Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Andy Cook. “Oregon and Washington have among the most restrictive land-use laws in the country, so the landslide ballot victory for Measure 37 and the subsequent proposal to put a similar measure in front of the Washington voters was certainly predictable.”
Cook predicted Washington voters would be receptive to an initiative similar to Oregon’s Measure 37. “The sentiment in support of Measure 37-type land-use bills is at least as popular in Washington as it was when Oregon voters passed Measure 37. We have strong resentment throughout the state of Washington toward the state’s Growth Management Act [a law restricting use of private land].”
— James Hoare