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May 18, 2005

Land-use values in Oregon survey

Recently the Oregon Business Association commissioned a study with the PSU Institute of Metropolitan Studies to survey "Oregonians Values and Beliefs about Land Use".
  The powerpoint is here.
  And the full report is here.

The report's opening summary of values shows clearly that any significant progress in reforming land-use laws in Oregon requires a more sophisticated and inclusive approach than Measure 37: the top 4 values each have support of a substantial majority of Oregonians ... in fact those four are in a statistical tie (within the margin of error of 4.5% of each other):

  • Protecting the rights of property owners
  • Protecting farmland for farming
  • Protecting the environment
  • Protecting wildlife habitat

Also interesting was that among supporters of Measure 37, no reasons commanded even 40% -- in other words, even among supporters, there wasn't any clear driver.

Overall, 68% said that growth management makes Oregon a more desirable place to live.

There were, I believe, some fairly poorly worded sections, which property rights activiists will focus on.  For example, a section compared "Private rights" to "Public good", which was respectively 56 - 38%.  But the problem is that I think people have fairly clear ideas of what is meant by their private [property] rights (to buy, sell property, build a house, control trespass, etc.), but vague ideas of "public good" which is not a phrase is common use.  So it contrasted a specific to a general.  When the question was asked about more specific "public goods" or "responsiblity to community", as we saw earlier, most (>60%) supported protecting farmland, the environment and wildlife habitat which are all public goods, not private rights.

Moving deeper, two other interesting results showing strong, even overwhelming support for balanced land-use were:

[Future Needs or Current Needs]
  70% Protect land for future needs
  25% Use land now for homes/business

  [Market-based or Planning-based Decisions]
  68% Planning-based decisions for land-use
  23% Market-based decisions for land-use

As many have believed, this survey now shows that most people do not endorse Measure 37 waivers :
[Ways to Address Measure 37]
  79% Periodically review and update Oregon's land-use system
      to accommodate change
  73% Allow property owners to build residential dwellings on farmland
      for personal or family use
  55% Compensate landowners for reduced property values
      but don't waive regulations
  44% Exempt some property owners from land use laws
      if funds to compensate them are not avaialable

Clearly Oregonians:
  - support our land-use laws
  - want land-use laws to both provide more opportunity for individual homes on
    private land while continuing to ensure farmland protection, environment and
    wildlife habitat through planning based land-use decisions
  - believe there were some inequities in the system that needed to be addressed
  - don't fully support Measure 37's solutions to the inequities
  - believe that compensation to land owners for land-use restrictions is
    a better approach than waiving land-use laws

The survey report concluded that,

"there is no mandate on either side: property rights or managing growth.  Oregonians recognize a fundamental value in property rights.  They also want to protect the environment and recognize land use policies make the state a better place to live.  The challenge is to strike a balance between diverse but strong values.  It will force policy makers to establish a clear set of objectives while maintaining fairness toward landowners and flexibility in land use policy implementation."

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