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Senate: Measure 37 change should be up to the voter

   SALEM (AP) — Oregon lawmakers took another step toward asking voters to rethink Measure 37.
   Concerned about the potential for Californiastyle sprawl, the state Senate agreed Tuesday to have voters decide whether to sharply restrict the amount of development on high-value farm and forest land that became possible with the 2004 passage of the property-rights law.
   Democratic lawmakers say the bill strikes a balance, protecting the rights of landowners who want to develop property and homeowners who want to preserve their rural way of life.
   ‘‘There is no way we are going to divine the intent of the voters,’’ said Sen. Kurt Schrader, D-Canby, one of the bill’s architects. ‘‘What we can do, and I think we did do, was provide some fairness and clarification about what might be considered reasonable by the majority of the people in this great state.’’
   But Senate Republicans, all of whom voted against the proposal, said it guts a law that voters approved by a wide margin.
   ‘Poorly drafted’
   ‘‘The language you have before you is poorly drafted, it’s full of unintended consequences and will lead to years of litigation,’’ said Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood. ‘‘This bill repeals Measure 37 ... There are a lot of people who are going to lose their rights under this bill.’’
   Measure 37 requires governments to compensate owners for property value lost from land-use restrictions passed after the property was purchased. If governments don’t pay — and Measure 37 claims have already reached nearly $15 billion — they must waive the restriction and allow development.
   The bill approved Tuesday would ask voters to give priority to landowners who want to build a couple of houses — not a couple of subdivisions.
   T h e b i l l o f f e r s a n ‘‘express lane’’ for Measure 37 claimants who want to build between one and three houses. For existing claimants who wish to build between four and 10 dwellings, they must demonstrate loss of value due to land use regulations equal to or greater than the value of the number of homes they want to build.
   A third option would allow property owners who have had claims approved by state and local agencies, and who have made significant investments, to continue development if approved by government agencies.
   T h e p r o p o s a l n o w returns to the House for action on amendments; that chamber passed an earlier version of the same bill several weeks ago.
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