It has been a busy year for the people of the City of Hillsboro, Oregon. This year the Herald has brought over 100 stories to you, our readers. Along the way we have been the first to break news on a number of fronts as we are the first source for local information on a wide variety of topics. Those topics include matters of growth, economic development, housing, homelessness, and expansion of jobs. Our offices are less than 500 feet from City Hall and our network of contributors and readers growing. It is safe to say that not much is happening in this town that we are not hearing about; much like the staff at the Hillsboro Argus of old, that was a goal we set when the paper started.
Today we bring you news about another very interesting land purchase by our City. In the last few months, the land and buildings at the corner of NE 17th Avenue and Tualatin Valley Highway caught the attention of City Hall. The land was optioned directly from the owner, put through proper due diligence, and now has been purchased. Made up of 6 tax lots, and three empty buildings, the property can be located at address 311 SW 17th Avenue.
In total, the 6 parcels add up to about 6.5 acres. An old restaurant sits boarded up on the corner, another which used to be Skipper’s fast food is South of that on 17th, and a smaller building further down.
Most of you that have read our stories know that this is across the street from “Camp Hope” as it was called, a large homeless camp that was the face of the 2020-2021 crisis in Hillsboro. The site is bounded by Dairy Creek to the West and Dair Creek Park to the South.
The Herald sent these questions of City Hall late this year and were given the following responses:
The questions are:
HH: 1) Is the city planning to do an assessment from the creek all the way to the East to the 17th for chemicals and other pollutants? This site was a rendering plant for many decades and has the potential for serious contamination. A level 1 environmental would determine this of course.
COH: The City plans to perform the appropriate level of environmental assessments prior to the closing of the property.
HH: 2) The land is 80 percent flood land or more, is the city considering an alteration?
COH: At this time, the City does not plan on doing any alteration to the flood plain.
HH: 3) While the stated purchase is for additional Park space for the city, could or would the City repurpose the existing restaurant for a shelter or sell it to a 3rd party?
COH: Throughout the due diligence process, the City will be evaluating all potential uses for all parts of the site.
HH: 4) At $3 Million dollars the price is almost 300% of the appraised value. Can or will the City obtain an appraisal as a condition of this purchase? With the limited resources we have and flood land having a maximum value of $30,000 per acre, the City would be paying almost $2 Million dollars an acre for the useable land. That would be a significant record price and certainly not at market value. How do we reckon with that as a community?
COH: The City has already obtained an appraisal and the price in the purchase and sale agreement is within the range of the appraised value.
HH: 5) Ultimately who is the final decision maker on this site and the final decision to close on it?
COH: The Hillsboro City Council
Since those questions were answered the City Council held an Executive Session to decide the purchase. That meeting was held in private without public access, nor can the Herald be given a copy of the meeting minutes. This part is bothersome and leaves many citizens asking “why?” the process is so secretive. This is not unusual, our Council regularly meets in closed sessions which is understandable. The need for secrecy on a land purchase however will raise eyebrows.
One Councilor we reached indicated this:
“We are looking at it for multiple purposes. Those purposes will be discussed at the next council meeting. Feel free to tune in then to hear more.”
More we will hear at the meeting on January 4th, 2021. That is in 5 days and there is no Agenda or packet available yet. You can find out how to attend and review the information when it comes available right here.
Floodplain dominates the site – shown in blue on the above map.
The City of Hillsboro has officially bought the land for $3,000,000 and has fenced off the entire site to prevent trespassing and damage. The area in general on both sides of TV Highway has been a constant campground for years with many homeless finding a place to live in the brush along the creek and out in the open meadows here.
On December 26th of, 2020, I was asked by City Manager Robby Hammond where I felt people suffering from Homelessness may be able to be housed or find a home if services and housing were available. The Washington County Fairgrounds was one site I advised would work. Others included the Wood Street land, where a temporary camp was put last Summer, and this site. I have no idea if that had any bearing on what is playing out, but the facts are no one in the community seems to be anxious to have a homeless camp exist or shelter housing built in their area. This site has no immediate residential neighbors, is on a bus line, is close to city services, and frankly, it has been a location for the housing challenged to live for 30 years or more.
The buildings can be utilized for day services and mental health care, as well as hot showers and more. It makes sense in a world that makes no sense. For me, as a longtime resident, I have capitulated that we are losing this battle and that homelessness and people living on the margins are not temporary things. Therefore I believe the City needs a site where people can go and be treated humanely and fairly; safety, food, and shelter are all being offered. Basic human needs.
The Herald has no idea what the City is planning or thinking but clearly, this site was not bought for it to sit there. Will it all be added to Dairy Creek Park? Maybe. Will the City lease the buildings? Maybe. Tear them down? Maybe. And RV Parks are allowed in the floodplain, and this site could be a great one. Is that an option? sure.
As the councilors I consulted with told me, tune in and stay tuned. Hillsboro has another property on the big Monopoly board, and this one may offer some long terms benefits for the City at large!