Column: The Real Story – Dirk Knudsen
The Hillsboro Herald and our staff often take on stories designed to make our readers think and understand the greater context and world in which we live. All things are not as they seem, and behind every story, there is a much bigger one. A couple of months back, our Matt Andersen and Ginny Mapes wrote a story about an iconic and historical banker, John C Shute. His first home was built on the Tualatin Plains on the Constable Land Claim. The classic farmhouse was built in the 1880s and placed on 80 acres of the most beautiful farmland in Washington
County. Mr. Shute married Lizzie Constable, who grew up on over 600 acres of land along what is now Brookwood and Evergreen Roads. Land that is now the hottest Industrial land in the State of Oregon. The dowery given to the young couple by her parents, Edward and Brazilla Constable, was enough to stake the Shutes to become one of the wealthiest families in the Region.
At City Hall this evening, we witnessed the next huge land expansion heading West of the Shute Farm; we paused to think about how this farm, or any farm or home on acreage, will survive. The onslaught of developers, pushed on by the State, METRO, and our own City Hall, are leaving nothing of what was. Everything, including trees and natural features, is being flattened and ripped out. Gravel, steel, and cement replace ancient Oaks and beautiful farm fields. With the testimony we heard tonight, one would think there is no choice and that what is coming is for the best. But that is hard to believe. Look at the changes that have come to the Shute Farm just in the last ten years; most of it has come in the past 24 months.
2012 -SHUTE FARM – 4825 NE Starr Street, Hillsboro, Oregon
2015 -SHUTE FARM – 4825 NE Starr Street, Hillsboro, Oregon
2018 -SHUTE FARM – 4825 NE Starr Street, Hillsboro, Oregon
2019 -SHUTE FARM – 4825 NE Starr Street, Hillsboro, Oregon
2020 -SHUTE FARM – 4825 NE Starr Street, Hillsboro, Oregon
The 2021 View of North Hillsboro Industrial Park showing the historic Shute House and property as marked in yellow
The John C Shute House has the National Historic Registry designation making it one of the most historical places in Oregon. This is the state of affairs as of August 2022. In 10 years, the farm has been completely surrounded by heavy industrial uses that have destroyed the country’s setting and livability – all in the name of progress.
These last 10 years have been transformative. The Haag family, who have called this place home for 60 years, enter a new era with eldest Son Mark and his wife Erin, and his sister Lisa and her husband Randy, trying to care for and guide the farm into the next 60 years. Tonight we look at this icon and support them in their efforts to provide a place where history can take a stand and remain among the many new facilities that are now opening. The City of Hillsboro can help by providing some zoning options beyond pure industrial for the family to be able to survive. Visitors all agree that the farm would be a natural for a McMenamins-like Pub and destination for events and an Air BNB Inn. It now has a veggie and fruit store offering local farm products, garden plants, and flowers, something the farm has done for decades. Time will tell, but we are hopeful for a solution that can work for all parties.
While I do not like to see the continued onslaught of industrial/high tech firms becoming the new “farms” in Washington County/Hillsboro, the fact remains, the previous landowners sold their land. I am assuming they sold it for a price that they wanted to get, and likely profited from. A real estate broker was likely involved in these sales. The area was zoned industrial, and as the landowners aged, the opportunity to cash out was likely a driving force in deciding to sell. I’m sure there were hard fought battles regarding the industrial zoning, but bottom line, if you wanted to sell your land, you sold it what happens to it next, is no longer your concern unless you somehow found a buyer that wanted to keep it the way it was. Real estate brokers are making serious bank in this city selling homes/land at WAY above their actual value, as these high tech firms bring in people who have high salaries, no ties to this area, and are willing to pay what real estate agents/brokers tell their sellers they can get for the property. While I hope the Shute Farm can hold on, the continued pointing that this is some sort of devious plot seems a little late. These land use discussions didn’t happen within the last week. This expansion has been in the works for decades. It is now reality. What sickens me is to see these escalating prices on homes that three years ago sold for between 100 and 150K now selling at a half million. The majority of these homes haven’t had 2-3 hundred thousand worth of upgrades either. Real estate is an investment, and clearly real estate agents/brokers (is not the editor of this news outlet one of this occupation?) are benefiting as are the sellers. Those of us who are in the lower income ranges who were struggling to save for a downpayment now realize we missed our chance and are completely shut out of the market. Those of us who are recovering from the last housing bubble/crash and have struggled to rebuild after losing everything are experiencing deja vu big time. Those of us who are seniors, are now trying to figure out where we can go and what can we afford to live in if we don’t have much more than social security to live on. While I hate to see another beautifully treed lot get flattened so a skinny multi level house can grace a once beautiful backyard (NE 6th between Edison and Jackson) the seller subdivided the lot, the main house now sits on a ridiculously small “yard” and a ridiculously skinny house will eventually be built on the former “back yard” which is now a postage stamp size lot in a neighborhood of lovely older homes on regular size lots. (I’m not a fan of infill). Some of the trees on that lot were diseased and needed to be taken down, but everything???? AND, I believe your name Mr. Knudsen was on the for sale sign out front of these properties. So, I’m sorry I just don’t understand the finger pointing here. But three cheers that Shute Farm’s owners can hold out. I personally find the appearance of the giant crane looming over my downtown neighborhood at Main and 4th to be an eyesore….I’d rather still see the trees that were once at the back of that lot (even though most of it was a bank parking lot. Sadly, this is growth and progress. Hillsboro stopped being a rural farming community decades ago. People, including the property owners now, are benefiting from the influx of money these high tech industries have brought in. I think it’s a little late to start complaining about it.
You make some good points. The land in North Hillsboro was rezoned against the landowners’ will, with many begging the city not to do it- with tears in their eyes. Yet just last week, the Council went against them and changed them from farmland to industrial. That was a forced situation. I have been working to preserve farmlands, historic sites, and open spaces and greenways for 40 years now and have effected some real wins and great change. The Shute House preservation, the Methodist Meeting House Memorial, the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Course with a deed restriction against homes, the Orenco Woods Natures park (sued to stop 486 homes and won), and others. The Jackson and 6th home had a triple lot, and the city zoned it for 4 lots like all of that area. The people that bought it from my client divided it into the home on 7500 SF, which is larger than the other lots there, and a remainder 4700 SF lot which is wider than most existing lots at 65 feet wide – so that will not be a skinny home. I think the 4th and Main is not going to fit in downtown. The 35 apartments going at 3rd and Lincoln are covering 100% of the lot and that will be even worse for NE Historic Hillsboro. There is not finger pointing – just facts. The City of Hillsboro is our City but those running it are now using $290,000,000 of our money and taking it from schools and police and fire and giving it to out of State developers to come here. Hillsboro citizens do not know this and those of us who have been here our entire lives were not told and not informed about any of this – that is just a fact. Happy to continue the discussion. I believe we have much in common. You must know that the jobs have caused the housing esclation and forced you and most of us locals out- that was all the City of Hillsboro’s doing! I want everyone to benefit and that is not happening- the rich have cleaned up, the poor still struggling, and those in the middle squished down the hardest. Thank you for commenting, and I do really appreciate the perspectives!
Is this the new “Hillsboro Way”? Take away from long time property owners and give incentives to the industry taking away our farm land? Well, the same thing is beginning to take place in Downtown on Main Street – paying this out of town developer $1M+ to take away the only adequate FIre Safety Access to the mid-block properties and businesses between 2ne & 3rd. It seems the Current City Leaders don’t care about the long time property and businesses that have helped establish Main Street – they can change city codes to fit their needs regardless of the outcome for others. They give money to build a bigger baseball stadium and a place for our homeless to reside but what are they doing to help with rebuilding the huge crater on Main Street where the Weil Arcade stood for 100 years? We should all be asking our City Leaders to consider What’s Right? What’s Fair for All Concerned?
“City officials say they are responsive to this concern, but the Jackson East area remains Hillsboro’s best option to grow.”
“While residents fight the change, business advocacy groups have pushed for the Jackson East expansion to keep Hillsboro’s economic engine churning. Councilors referenced this often in saying they must balance the needs of the existing residents with the city’s needs decades down the road.”
“They also stated that Hillsboro must make the change so that future infrastructure projects can add utility lines in the area, making the land more attractive to developers.”
Man, the local paper of record never puts away the pom poms for development, does it? We never get answers about why the area requires further growth. We never talk about how the “economic engine” churns, especially given the amount of acreage handed over to data centers—which employ minimal staff while using a city’s worth of resources. They never talk about why existing residents were never offered the infrastructure improvements that they deem so necessary for wooing employers. They just chant “go, go, go” as if it doesn’t matter where they’re going.