Oregonians who want to develop their land under the state's 2004 property-rights law took turns bashing Gov. Ted Kulongoski's proposal to...

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SALEM, Ore. — Oregonians who want to develop their land under the state’s 2004 property-rights law took turns bashing Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s proposal to freeze most claims for development until June, saying it threatens their retirements and their investments.

“I’m going to continue, no matter what the governor says,” said Ollie Wilcox, a 78-year-old Clackamas County resident. “I am going to build my houses. … I’ll continue until they throw me in jail.”

Wilcox, who wants to develop her 8-acre plot into parcels for four homes, was among a dozen landowners who spoke Thursday at a news conference organized by Oregonians in Action, the group that wrote the compensation law known as Measure 37.

The voter-approved law requires that governments compensate landowners if a land-use regulation implemented after they bought property reduces its value, or to waive the regulation and allow development on the property.

Kulongoski, citing the thousands of claims filed by landowners, earlier this week announced a proposal to freeze larger developments but create an “express line” for claims to build single-family homes on rural land.

Under the governor’s plan — about 85 percent of claimants — those looking to build more than one home or a subdivision, would have to wait until June 30 while the Legislature tries to come up with what Kulongoski and other critics say is a needed “fix” for Measure 37.

Kulongoski said this week the measure “has unleashed an unexpected rush to development” and that the Legislature “should act sooner rather than later to uphold what the voters intended when they passed this legislation.”

Most property owners who took part in Thursday’s news conference said they bought their land with the intention of dividing a dozen or so acres into 1- to 2-acre plots to fund their retirement.

But that was before a 1975 land-use law was passed that limits development on land zoned for agriculture.

“We raised calves, pigs, Christmas trees, hay, strawberries and for 23 years, raspberries,” said Dawn Dutton, a Clackamas County resident who, with her husband, wants to build three houses on a piece of their land.

“Berries now can no longer even compete with the imports,” she said.

Dutton said the couple bought their property in 1967 and planned to farm the land for 20 or 30 years, then partition it so that they could retire.

But the governor’s bill threatens two of the three houses and $40,000 the couple say they have already invested.

Typical Measure 37 claims are from owners of farmland who could realize significant gains on their property if they could subdivide it for housing.

A few claims are large however, such as the 32,000-acre claim of Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber near the coast.

Kulongoski’s plan was supported by representatives from the Oregon Farm Bureau, who said that between 70 and 75 percent of Measure 37 claims are on land zoned for agricultural use.

Farming is one of the largest industries in the state, generating upwards of $12 billion in economic activity a year.

There have been about 7,000 Measure 37 claims filed covering over 500,000 acres. That accounts for less than 1 percent of Oregon’s total land.

But much of the development is concentrated in a just few areas, such as the picturesque Hood River Valley, the suburban counties around Portland and in fast-growing Southern Oregon.

Gary Willis, a fourth-generation farmer from the Hood River Valley, said Measure 37 is critical to the survival of his family farm.

Globalization and new technology have made the agricultural industry more competitive, Willis said, and Oregon farmers must be able to develop parts of their land if they are to remain viable.

“People need to know that we are not in the business of landscaping the countryside for folks to enjoy on a Sunday afternoon drive,” he said.