Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hines' M37 Case Makes TV News

We've been talking a lot about the fallout from Measure 37's enaction and subsequent deadline for new claims late last year, as the unintended becomes the norm--people suing when they don't get the judgement they expect, or a school holding a town hostage for money to move the school elsewhere. Portland has also been slammed, but it seems as if the city's review board is seeking ways to deny claims under the law's exemptions if at all plausible, particularly using the environmental impact as qualifying under the "public health and safety" clauses.

One case we haven't talked about much is one that we've known about from our friends Brian and Laurel Hines near Salem, who are making a similar case for denial in Marion County--but in a very concrete, who-gets-the-resources zero-sum manner. From the beginning, they were wary that property owners around them would seek to develop after M37's passage. And sure enough, their next door neighbor has filed a claim based on plans to put up 80 houses on current farmland.

The claim is now before county commissioners, and the case is beginning to get statewide attention for the nature of the opposition, coming from neighbors who are making an informal counterclaim that state land-use regulations--in this instance the theoretical zoning waiver for the developer--will harm their property value. Only Brian and Laurel aren't in this to develop their own land or get money from the state; they just want to keep their halcyon life at the status quo. And they're not making up reasons to fit the public health exemption--their specific allegation is that development will endanger the local water supply, already designated a water shortage area. Running water being the cornerstone of public health, do you think they've got a point, maybe?

I say the Hines' argument is getting wide attention because KATU has done an interview with them and run two versions of the story for viewers to mull over. And now you can mull it over too; here's the long version that contains a lot more of Brian and Laurel, as well as comments from one of the commissioners:
If you go to their blog, you can see or link to the shorter version, which barely scratches the surface. Even at that, though, I have to be supportive of the coverage from local TV news, which I bash regularly (for good reason). This is the kind of thing people need to see--not just the Hines' perspective, but the developer's, which makes his refusal to speak to KATU disappointing. But that's his loss, and anyway obviously I think the Hines are absolutely correct: this cannot be the kind of thing M37 was meant to enable--one neighbor fucking over another's water supply. There's still some testing to be done to measure the extent to which supply would be endangered, but as Laurel points out in the longer piece, 80 wells is 80 wells. Water only goes around so far to everyone.

Beyond keeping up with their M37 experience, which should be a real treat owing to their blogging interest in the issue already, take the time to go over and peruse their other stuff. Brian does almost all of the talking, but he spends a fair amount of it catching up on what Laurel's doing on her various boards and councils. I consider them model Oregonians, the kind of people who embody our state spirit--active, outdoor-loving, politically attentive, community-oriented, free-minded. We need their voices in these times of potentially great change in the state, so check in regularly and see what they have to say.

And if you want to put pressure on the Legislature to suspend M37 while we work all this nonsense out, go to Rep. Jim Gilbert's site and sign his petition.