This is your chance to have a voice in the future of Wallowa County and the state of Oregon. Measure 49 was drafted to fix Measure 37, and while it isn't perfect, Measure 49 restores significant protection for farm land, forests and water supplies while allowing those with existing, valid Measure 37 claims to increase the number of homes allowed on their property.

- Jean Pekarek

Heavily financed anti-Measure 49 interest groups are running advertising messages of fear; they insist that passage of Measure 49 "would allow government to steal 95 percent of your property value without paying you a dime." One such ad shows a photo of a middle-income home flashing on the screen while the narrator states "you could lose your most valuable asset."

Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.

One could easily argue, that Measure 37 resulted from the 20-year bipartisan failure to update and refine land use management. But now the self-interested proponents of M37 want us all to believe the measure adequately repaired Oregon Land Use planning and management.

Many Oregonians don't see it that way. Reality set in after property owners began filing claims in large numbers. Neighbors saw that M37 didn't just mean it would be easier for people to build a few homes on their property.

It meant that people could build commercial and industrial establishments and large subdivisions of city-sized lots with no regard for how it impacted others. Farmers began thinking about how these new uses would affect their operations and livelihood. Rural residents expressed concern about how 30 or more new neighboring wells would affect their water supply, and on and on. Legislators were bombarded with complaints that M37 went too far.

Wallowa County Planning Department records indicate the county has approved 45 M37 applications - four were denied and two are still pending. The total acreage for the approved and pending waiver applications is approximately 11,180 acres.

Have you thought about how M37 could affect you personally and our county as a whole? As M37 stands today, commercial and industrial uses and conversion of land into city-sized lots is allowed, based strictly on date of ownership.

How many of our ranches do we want to transform into vacation spots for the world's idle wealthy? How many of our farms do we want paved over?

Measure 49 restrains the unlimited development prospects M37 offered every real estate developer with financial backing.

It protects ranch, timber, and farmlands from speculative development pressures and, contrary to the anti-M49 claims, M49 will take no homes or properties.

Instead, it limits how much additional development is allowed under M37. If M49 passes, property owners who filed valid M37 claims by June 28 can choose to proceed with their claims under one of three options.

The option for up to three homes allows for the creation of a maximum of three dwellings, lots, or parcels. This includes any existing dwellings, lots or parcels, so the number of dwellings, lots or parcels allowed under a claim will be reduced by the number of existing dwellings, lots or parcels. If the claimant already has three, one additional is guaranteed. This option allows the claimant to transfer the waiver.

The option for four to ten homes is not available for high-value farm and forestland. High-value farmland includes land zoned for exclusive farm use, or for a mixed farm and forest use that has a water right for irrigation. The number of houses allowed is based on the loss in value as determined by an appraisal showing the difference in the value one year before the restrictive regulation and one year after the restrictive regulation was enacted. The number of dwelling, lots, or parcels allowed under this option cannot exceed ten and any existing dwellings, lots, or parcels are included in the total count.

The option to proceed under an existing M37 claim is available to those who have been issued a waiver before Dec 6, 2007. If a claimant has completed a certain level of development under the waiver by Dec. 6, he is allowed up to 20 homes on his property. This option doesn't allow a transfer of the waiver.

Measure 37 will potentially destroy many values, material and aesthetic, of many properties by allowing any and every type of construction on the property next door without regard for potential impact to neighbors and the community as a whole.

Wallowa County cannot pay to prevent planting trophy homes all over the East Wallowa Lake Moraine; the Ry Timber Company is claiming the right to do just that.

Profiteering knows no bounds. Capitalism has no conscience.

The challenge of governing capitalism's excesses is on every citizen. M49 reins in the bizarre excesses of M37. M37's defenders preach fear while actually trying to take from our public officials the authority to prevent real estate speculators from planting ill-considered developments wherever they want.

Walter Smith is a resident of Enterprise and is active is various economic development projects.

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