Last week, the Portland City Council adopted a plan to build and finance the aerial tram that will run from OHSU to the North Macadam district down along the Willamette River. In a surprise move, the Council approved an amendment offered by Commissioner Dan Saltzman that requires the city to buy any properties below the tram’s right-of-way if the owners feel that the market value is threatened by the tram. The city will then re-sell the homes, either reaping the rewards of profit or bearing the risk of loss.
This is an important recognition by the Council that when government actions adversely affect private property, financial compensation may be appropriate. The Council now has an obligation to broaden this policy to other classes of landowners who have been harmed much more severely than those living beneath the tram ever will be.
For instance, what about land-owners whose property has been entirely re-zoned for wildlife habitat, preventing any development at all? And what of business owners on North Interstate Avenue whose finances were ruined during the construction of light rail?
With the precedent set, it’s not enough to pay off homeowners who vocally oppose a politically-favored construction project. Other property owners in the city have rights too.
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