Authors Note: This article contains facts and figures and my personal opinions. I hope you enjoy the story or at least take a pause from your day-to-day and think about our town and our people.
The City of Hillsboro is #JobsCentral, and the facts prove that. As a community, Hillsboro makes up a majority of the high-tech jobs in the entire State and dominates Washington County in all categories for growth and financial gains. Fresh off playing Monopoly and facing criticism from brokers and developers in North Hillsboro, the City Economic Development staff has tripled down. It has applied for and received a $48,000,000 dollar commitment from the City Council for the City to buy 3 parcels of land in North Hillsboro. In total, 72 acres of land are being purchased in the North Hillsboro Tech Park out along Meek Road. At the agreed price, the land is costing the taxpayers $660,000 dollars an acre; more than that once the wetlands are taken out.
Want to know more about why this land is so hot? Look at this 2018 promotional video the City of Hillsboro made for the North Hillsboro Tech Park.
This price represents an approximate 200% increase in the price based on recent sales of industrial lands out in the East Tualatin Plains, which is roughly bounded by Evergreen Road (South), Starr Street (East), Sewell Road (West), and Meek Road/US 26 (North). Blame the myriad of data centers on that increase, as those companies have come and paid up big time to participate in what one Data Center manager told me was “money raining from the sky“. The same man scoffed at farmers who sold land so cheaply, smirking as he said, “we would have paid 3 times what we did“. Understand folks, there is nowhere like Hillsboro right now for Data Centers, or any tech player, in the Pacific NW. The land is perfect, the critical mass of jobs is here, and the City is rolling out the red carpet and the money to make it happen.
More specifically, here is the map of what our City is buying for you, the people. Your money is being used for this, and that is a fact. Even as I write this, I am remembering how the City of Beaverton took a blood bath financially over the Beaverton in the Round project with their attempts to play developer. Portland and other cities, too, have made huge missteps that I have watched happen during my 40-year career as a commercial broker. This is not really what cities need to be doing- but- I am seeing the wisdom here. If Hillsboro does not flex its muscles here, the Data Centers will, and they produce few jobs, suck power, and pollute the environment. No matter, $48,000,000 dollars is a hell of a lot of money, even in a City like Hillsboro with a budget that is approaching a Billion dollars a year.
The Herald took questions to the City, specifically asking about what was happening and for full disclosure. The Q & A is as presented below by us back on Nov 22nd.
Request for Full Disclosure and Public Information:
HH: We saw resolution 2756 was passed at the 11/16/21 City Council meeting but we were not able to attend. Was there a link for us to watch what happened?
Hillsboro: The regular and work session meetings are posted but executive sessions are not as they are closed to the public. The open sessions can be viewed at the link below. Just select the November 16 meeting under the button listed as Full Meeting Videos on our City Council Meetings page.
HH: Was Resolution 2756 signed?
HH: Has the City closed on this property?
Hillsboro: Not yet. However, all three properties approved by the City and HEDC are scheduled to close by mid-December.
HH: Does the City outside of HEDC (Hillsboro Economic Development Commission) have a 3rd Party in discussions or under contract for this property?
Hillsboro: Not at this time.
HH: Can we get clarification about the money being used to pay for this land? The $18.8 Million? The Staff report said this:
“Funding will come from an interfund loan from the Building Fund to the Strategic Investment Program (SIP)and/or SIP reserves. The interfund loan will come before the City Council at the December 7th meeting. ”
“The funding for the City to purchase one of the three parcels will be provided by an interfund loan between the Building Fund and the Strategic Investment Program Fund. The loan will be repaid by the sale of the property. If payments on the loan need to occur before the land sells, the City will use available resources to pay the debt service specifically SIP or at such time restructure the financing to be held by HEDC.”
What are the terms of such a loan?
Hillsboro: The term will be for 10 years with payments starting in FY 2024-25. The interest rate will be the 10-year treasury plus 2%, equal to about 3.5%.
HH: Lastly- the City has options on the surrounding property, what is the thinking behind that process and how much the City is slated to spend on this?
Hillsboro: The HEDC has the two properties to the west under contract with the estimated purchase price on those properties to be approximately $29 million. The purpose is to acquire the land for needed infrastructure and to aggregate parcels focused on achieving the community’s economic development goals and fulfilling the goals of the North Hillsboro Urban Renewal Plan. The HEDC is not currently pursuing the acquisition of properties north of Meek Road.
End of Questions:
On December 7th the Hillsboro City Council did approve the purchase of the lands in the question above and the $48,000,000 in loans and debts for the people of Hillsboro to pay for these parcels to be bought. I hope you caught the answer above in which the City confirmed that the actual discussions about the money, who is being paid how much, and the details are done in private with no available record of said meetings. This is allowed under Oregon Law. I am a 100% transparency guy so this seems rotten, but it is the way Oregon works. https://oregon.public.law/statutes/ors_192.660.
A State Of Emergency has been declared- the only way to get the money needed to buy the land is for the City to declare a State of Emergency. Really? Is this really an Emergency?
Forty-Eight Million Dollars. Jobs, Money, Success!
The ancient land of the native Atfalati People is being covered forever in concrete, parking, and smokestacks. If you have read my work, you know for me this is hard; this is my hometown of 58 years. I feel ill when I drive out there and see the concrete jungle that we have allowed to be built. My friends have left. The farmers I worked for are gone. The land is no longer sweet with corn and wheat. Instead of local legendary families who built this town, we have foreign corporations and the world’s largest industrial developer, owned by a Texas billionaire, playing monopoly with it. But I need to put up or shut up. So do you. But what if we don’t want to do either and don’t want to leave? Well, therein for me, and many of you too is the dilemma.
As seen last week, here is the first thing people entering Hillsboro, Oregon see now along NE Brookwood. A data center with massive concrete walls, no windows, and spiked iron fences surrounding the Gulag-like facility.
Final Thoughts: The City of Hillsboro will continue on this path well into the future- the City Council has given the City staff the authority to spend almost $200,000,000 dollars to get these jobs and these factories. Like it or not, this is happening, and it wasn’t the city it would be the private sector. So let me applaud the City on a job well done. From here on out I hope you go for it…buy every parcel. Plow every acre and make every deal and let’s do it as fast as we can and get it over with. Get all the jobs that exist, and let’s incentivize every deal with tax giveaways and freebies. Takedown the Erdman’s Red Barn, cut more ancient oaks and bury more native graves. Please. Hurry it up, and let’s move on to more important things like our people and their needs.
These jobs that are coming, and those that already have, are the main reason and cause of why our kids can’t buy a home here. Hell, a large number of City Staff do not even live in Hillsboro. Partly because they can not afford it and partly because they chose not to be here with us.
To all of you staff, you Councilors, you administrators, and business leaders, I say to you keep it going. Hurry it up. It is too much- much more than those of us who are #woke can handle anymore. But as you do this, can you please spend the same amount of money and time on our housing and schools and crime rates? Can you openly write grants and tax breaks for housing developers wanting to build homes for our people? Can you adopt aggressive tax incentives and special programs for us to have homes? Will you allow creative infill and pull back strict regulations? You have to, dare I say you must, because with every Million you spend on jobs, you push another neighborhood of citizens out of their City, our city. This is not fair, and an account is being made.
Hillsboro has long been known as the “Town that says Yes,” as coined by former councilmen Roberts. Yes is a powerful word. Sometimes, however, the word No can be just as powerful. We have much to celebrate. Hopefully, this $48,000,000 dollar deal can be one of them.
Having a home to live in and own should be another.
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