By passing Measure 37 last week, voters last week blew gaping holes in the urban growth boundary that for decades made Portland a model for other cities' planning efforts.
"Measure 37 is really bad news--I don't think people understand," says David Bragdon, president of the tri-county planning agency called Metro, which oversees the boundary. The UGB, established in the early 1970s, protects farm and forest land from development while shielding the urban core from the draining effects of sprawl. Those safeguards were shattered by last week's vote, which basically allows people who owned their land prior to the birth of the UGB to ignore its restrictions. (Although proponents billed the measure as farm-friendly, more than a dozen Oregon Farm Bureau chapters, including those in Washington, Clackamas and Yamhill counties, opposed it).
Most observers doubt Measure 37 can be knocked off by lawsuits or overhauled by the Legislature. So, Bragdon says, planners must seek new ways of promoting compact urban-style development. One of the most promising methods: jacking up fees. Numerous studies have shown development fees do not recoup costs of new infrastructure--roads, sewer and water--or services, such as police, fire, utilities and schools. As Metro lawyer Dick Benner puts it, "We subsidize rural development."
Some localities, such as Lancaster, Calif., make developers and homeowners outside the urban core pay their own way--thus encouraging smart growth. Says Bragdon,"We need to be undertaking a similar methodology here."