Note: This is part of a series. Here’s how Measure 37—the progenitor of a new wave of more aggressive initiatives, such as I-933 in Washington—is affecting Oregon’s farm economy.

In windswept northeastern Oregon, the farmers of rural Union County are feeling the sting of Measure 37. A landowner-turned-speculator there recently made a claim to subdivide more than 1,400 acres of rural land into hundreds of 5-acre buildable lots.

Farmers nearby are outraged.

In a preliminary hearing, the county commissioners denied the claim on an important technicality: the property’s ownership had transferred from a family to a family corporation in 1976, after Oregon’s land-use laws went into effect. Had it not been for that transfer, the commissioners would have almost certainly approved the developments, despite the serious concerns of local farmers and landowners.

Washington’s I-933 contains no such safety net for rural people and farmers. I-933 will have land-use laws waived for anyone owning property before 1996, not the early 1970s as in Oregon. And there’s reason to think that I-933 is written so clumsily (or deceitfully) that it may allow waivers for any property owner.

Farmers in Union County are not happy with the effects of Measure 37; and farmers in Washington are even less likely to be happy with it’s juiced-up son, I-933. They won’t get a say as farm country is diminished and farming gets marginalized by a devil-may-care land-use regime. But their voices are worth hearing.

Below the fold, in their own words, rural landowners from Union County get their say…

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  • From the Oregonian:

    “I hate to see anything come into this valley that’s going to act like a cancer and just spread,” said Bill Rynearson, whose family arrived in the 1860s.

    People [at a hearing] expressed concern about whether the abrupt addition of so many new homes served by individual wells would dry up both domestic and agricultural wells.

    Nearby landowners also raised the specter of sanitation problems resulting from more than 330 individual septic systems.

    Others worried about the traffic of rural roads.

    “I voted for Measure 37,” said Ted Schroeder, a landowner near the proposed subdivision. “This is not what I voted for. . . I did not vote for mega-projects that will produce millionaires at the expense of their neighbors.”

    The Capital Press, an agricultural paper, has similar coverage:

    …farmer Bill White said it is hard to imagine houses—hundreds of them—standing where the wheat now grows. White, who is among a group of farmers opposing a Measure 37 claim to divide the land into hundreds of 5-acre lots, said: “You can see it’s an incompatible use.”

    Phil Hassinger, who farms near the proposed development, is no stranger to farming near housing. “It’s a serious problem,” he said of farming near housing. “You can get complaints over noise, dust, you name it.”

    “My biggest problem is I just hate to see prime ground get covered up,” said Paul Rudd, who farms adjacent to the proposed development. “Some day the world’s going to need that land for farming and it’s not going to be there.” Rudd said he also is concerned the proposed development could lower the water table and increase the value of the area’s farmland. “I won’t be able to buy it, and I won’t be able to rent it,” he said.

    “Being a young farmer, I’m concerned because land prices are high enough as it is,” said Matt Insko, 30, who also farms near the proposed development. “A lot of people were afraid of this type of thing when Measure 37 was on the ballot, but they voted for it anyway because they were so tired of the restrictions (in Oregon land-use laws).”