Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Unintended Consequences

As I've observed the state legislature over the years, I am always struck by how often even well-crafted and vetted bills wind up with unintended consequences. And if it happens often in something carefully written, what chance does something hastily put together at the last minute have? Such bills almost without exception contain something no one foresaw or intended.

So it really comes as no surprise to me that Measure 37 in Oregon is now discovered to have an unintended consequence. A story in last Sunday's Oregonian points out that many legal observers are saying that it is clear that the measure intends to give a property owners back the rights of development that existed at the time the owner purchased the property. So many long-time landowners are seeking approval for uses that are no longer currently permitted, but were legal at the time they acquired the property.

However, if the owner then sells the property, the new owner can only seek approval for the level of development that current regulations permit.

"There's no evidence transferability was contemplated,' says Kevin Neely, spokesman for the attorney general's office. Leaders at Oregonians in Action, the group that wrote Measure 37, say ability to sell land for development is part of an owner's right.

"Oregonians on both sides are struggling with the new legal and political landscape. There are folks such as George Forsman, who won Measure 37 approval early on. Last summer, he was trading stories with fellow claimants in a crowded Clackamas County hearing room. 'I can't sell the land,' he told a woman in the next row of chairs. 'Oh, my gosh,' she exclaimed, waiting for her turn before the county commissioners. Forsman shook his head. 'Not with this restriction on it.' Forsman says he might sell his 40-acre orange grove in Florida so he can afford to develop the Oregon land himself. But he knows most claimants don't have that option, so he'd like to spearhead a class-action lawsuit."

Nothing is ever as clear as you might think it is, especially when dealing with the writing of new laws.

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