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Oregon's Urban Growth Boundarys

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One of the most unique characteristics of Oregon is it's strong land use planning legislation. The State of Oregon, beginning with Gov. Tom McCall in 1973, championed legislation that ultimately required that metro regions desgnate a UGB for that region, encompassing enough open land for about 20 years future (compact) urban development, but also providing strict limits on development that can occur outside the borders. This, combined with the state efforts to resist major new highway expansion projects, such as the Mt Hood Freeway in the 70s, and it's efforts to support transit and transit oriented development, have been praised by environmentalists, planners, farmers, and others as a model for sustainable development and governance in the US.

In 2004, the state passed a ballot act called Measure 37, which 'allowed property owners whose property value is reduced by environmental or other land use regulations to claim compensation from state or local government. If the government failed to compensate a claimant within two years of the claim, the law allowed the claimant to use the property under only the regulations in place at the time he/she purchased the property.' The law proved to be very controversial, and it opened up thousands of acres to new development by right that did not exist under previous state law, causing some to doubt whether it was a good compromise.

Then in 2007, after seeing millions of dollars of Measure 37 claims inthe previous 2-3 years, Oregon placed Measure 49 onthe state ballot, which passed by a 62/38 margin. The new law repealed many of the loopholes in Measure 37, and placed restrictions on many of the claims that had taken place in the previous few years. Measure 49 'protects farmlands, forestlands and lands with groundwater shortages in two ways.

First, subdivisions are not allowed on high-value farmlands, forestlands and groundwater- restricted lands. Claimants may not build more than three homes on such lands.

Second, claimants may not use this measure to override current zoning laws that prohibit commercial and industrial developments, such as strip malls and mines, on land reserved for homes, farms, forests and other uses.'

The Oregonian today has an interesting article on measure 49, which has seemed to strike a good balance between the more restrictive policies pre-37, and the allowances of sensible uses (such as the construction of family residences) on private rural land.

The following is a picture showing how the UGB produces striking results that probably can't be seen anywhere else in the US:


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