Our Federal, State, and Local governmental officials all call the Federal CHIPS ACT a “Once in a lifetime opportunity” for the State of Oregon and our people. US Senator Ron Wyden, US Senator Jeff Merkley, and US Representative Suzanne Bonimici have led a list of 30-plus powerful politicians at the State and local level, as the Semiconductor Competitiveness Task Force has made plans to get Oregon billions in Federal money. Their work in 2022 led to the creation of the Joint Committee On Semiconductors, which is actively moving to write one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation ever done.
At stake is the future of Oregon’s Semiconductor Industry which includes tens of thousands of jobs. Jobs that provide personal wealth for all economic groups and billions in annual revenues for the State of Oregon and companies like Intel. That company, Oregon’s largest employer, rakes out $70 to $100 Billion in annual profits off the top. Set aside the traffic, chemical spills, ugly gas clouds, and rising housing costs the Fabs create; it has been an economic boom for the State of Oregon.
I have watched almost every hearing and know more about this process than the average reporter. For 40 years, I have worked in the land use and economic fields. I was an active Sunset Corridor Economic Development Committee member when the now-termed “Silicon Forest” began. So I appreciate that getting at these CHIPS ACT billions, which are beginning to flow to States like Texas, Ohio, and Arizona, is a really BIG DEAL for Oregon and our economic future. This is a Once in a Lifetime opportunity. The key is, folks, that we not blow it.
Two times a week, the Committee in Salem meets as Senate Bill 4 is being born. This Monday will be meeting #14, and Senate Bill 4 is nearing some final form. Encouraging each other to be “Bold and Brave,” the members have listened to dozens, and dozens of experts come and testify as to the importance of passing legislation to create economic packages, and educational packages, and to complete massive land expansions to make room for more Fabs. No one seems to have any issues with funding workforce training in a big way, or in giving hundreds of millions in State and Local funds to corporations who will expand or locate here in Oregon.
The rub comes when discussions around the land expansions come up.
Before we go further with this article let us have a look at the list of the Senators and Representatives who will decide on what lands in the State of Oregon will be considered for immediate inclusion into the Urban Growth Boundary. While this new legislation, known as Senate Bill 4, will apparently give Governor Kotek the Pen and the ultimate power to decide, the Committee is making specific recommendations. Here is a list of the members who are serving on the committee.
|Co-Chair||Senator Janeen Sollman|
|Co-Chair||Representative Janelle Bynum|
|Co-Vice Chair||Senator Tim Knopp|
|Co-Vice Chair||Representative Kim Wallan|
|Member||Senator Bill Hansell|
|Member||Senator Kate Lieber|
|Member||Senator Mark Meek|
|Member||Representative Ed Diehl|
|Member||Representative David Gomberg|
|Member||Representative Jeffrey Helfrich|
|Member||Representative Zach Hudson|
|Member||Representative Bobby Levy|
|Member||Representative Daniel Nguyen|
|Member||Representative Nathan Sosa|
It must be noted that the Committee is Co-Chaired by Senator Janeen Sollman, a Hillsboro Senator and that Representative Nathan Sosa, is on the committee; also Hillsboro politician.
In addition to these decision-makers, the Industrial Land Subcommittee includes Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway.
For weeks the Hillsboro Herald had reported on these hearings, and last year long before any of this started, we hypothesized precisely where the State and the City would end up trying to put this new growth, and we were right. After weeks of hearing from Cities and Counties across the State who want in on these future jobs and land expansions, it seems to all be returning to good old Hillsboro, the jobs center of the State. For many good reasons, there is really nowhere else that a semiconductor firm would want to locate or expand. Although the Mayors of Cornelius and North Plains have made compelling cases to be in on this gold rush, the Senate committee seems to be focused on handing Hillsboro the ball. And if they do, it is a multi-billion-dollar ball.
We believed this would happen the whole time, not to call anyone else naive, but there are forces at work here that the Herald has a long-standing knowledge of and messages coming in on. You see, there are people who are involved here at the State level with ties to landowners and consultants in North Hillsboro who own the lands on the maps being touted in these hearings. Our testimony has been ignored despite begging the committee to disclose ex-parte contacts and warning them that notice provisions required by State law are potentially being violated. Sadly I think the lid is about to come off of all of this and that no matter what is decided, an appeal is all but guaranteed. If that happens, it could squander the truly outstanding opportunity that we have before us as a State to land jobs and Billions in Federal funds. The blame and responsibility for that will be on their shoulders alone.
At the hearing a week or so ago, Hillsboro Economic Development Director Dan Dias came in and made the longest and most impressive presentation to date. Committee members seemed enthralled with the very sound plan that Dias and his staff have developed to prepare a true Campus site, more extensive than the massive Ronler Acres site. This site would be a combination of existing industrial land with complete services (260 Acres), some available expansions inside the Hillsboro Urban Growth Boundary, which is part of the 2014 Grand Bargain expansion (206 Acres), and 373 acres of new expansion lands. This 840 Acres can be enough for a massive Fab or two, parking, and support buildings. Seen below in yellow, this is a consensus combination as being immediately attainable and the perfect fit.
Dias, in his testimony, went on to make a case for Senate Bill 4 to direct the Governor to include 700 acres, as seen in Green above, 700 acres in purple above, and perhaps 406 acres, as seen in Red above. These sites would be, in his estimation, Advanced manufacturing and parts suppliers for the semiconductor fabs that come here. When his presentation turned to this land and these parcels, concerns immediately come into our minds, as follows:
- The Green Area is adjacent all along the South to Hillsboro’s finest neighborhoods, including Jackson School, Sunburst Meadows, Fishback Creek, and others. Jackson Elementary School, Evergreen Middle School, and Glencoe High School are all adjacent or near that land. Putting industry with chemicals, scrubbers, endless traffic, and environmental hazards, there will never stand. To even suggest it is comical. That and the fact that our Mayor, two or three Councilors, and County Commissioners live next door make it even more unlikely. But the City appears to be seriously looking at it because it is a large flat grouping of parcels, and there is sewer and water and roads at that corner.
- The Purple Area is unserviced and other than being flat and West across Jackson Road from the new Campus Site the City identified, it is just not time for that to come in. Dias indicated this area would take longer once it was annexed.
- The Red Area is fully able to be serviced and could come in and support a large fab. We have covered this fact before. But not much attention is being paid to this area at this time as far as we can see.
Here is a version of the City of Hillsboro Map with some notations added to clear up the situation mentioned above because the reality of what land, how much the City has now, and what is needed seems to be all over the map in these hearings.
On the map above, we labeled the areas in a 50-year “No-Touch” zone known as the Rural Reserves. These areas were restricted to form a hard edge around our City in 2014 so that the people of Oregon, and Hillsboro in particular, could be assured of where the buck would stop and where the town and the farmlands would meet and exist in harmony. Six years later, here we are, trying to move it again.
Also, on the map above is about 400 acres of undeveloped land in the Urban Growth Boundary. Some of it is owned by the Port of Portland, some in small parcels, and some in a larger parcel that is for sale now. Why none of it is being counted into the amount we already have is a bit of a mystery. At this point, the money for the State, or some other entity to buy everything, is becoming a reality. This is one of the reasons we think a lot more work is needed.
Is The Fix Already In?
We were not surprised when last week’s hearing became focused on a pitch for the big Hillsboro expansions. However, it is lost on most people that this Joint Committee On Semiconductors considered 70 plus smaller sites, maybe 50 to 200 acres on average. But there, on Page 9 of the report to the Committee of available lands, is this massive, almost 1700-acre site shown on the maps above. Why is that site so big, you ask? And who submitted a site that large when all of the others were much smaller? Good question. Remember that Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway was seated on the Land Subcommittee who supported this land and helped to make this recommendation, and there is a Senator and Representative from Hillsboro on the decision-making body. So this big site at least went through their hands for review.
Enter the NW Hillsboro Land Alliance- http://nwhillsboro.org/index.html
If you visit their website and read the about us, you will see that this group of landowners is well-organized and represented. For years, since being forced into the Rural Reserve in 2014, they have lobbied and made their case to get back into the Urban Reserve and to have a chance to move ahead and sell their dry farmlands for development values. Those values, just so we are all clear, move from $20 to $50K an acre outside the UGB to as much as $600,000 per acre if the line moves. No one can begrudge someone for wanting to find a way forward like that for their land.
It is curious, however, that the land the Semiconductor Committee is considering bringing in, and the land that Hillsboro staff advocated for, is, in fact, the exact same 1700 acres that the NW Hillsboro Land Alliance has been trying to get brought in for years now. So much so that they have a master plan for the lands, a future community design, and a strong narrative for.
As I stated above, people involved in Salem with these proceedings have met with, know, and have communicated with members of this group (land owners) for some time now. It appears that the City of Hillsboro staff and some leaders have been meeting with members of this group in the past and maybe even within the last few months or weeks. Formal requests to Dias and the City of Hillsboro as to this issue have been partially answered as follows:
“The City is tracking and participating in State Semiconductor efforts including evaluation and pursuit of adequate sites to support the industry. The City has engaged with a variety of stakeholders including some land owners in areas under evaluation by the statewide effort. ” Dan Dias – March 2nd, 2014.
Is there anything wrong with the City staff meeting with Land Owners and stakeholders? Probably not. But, if members of this decision-making body in Salem have been, well, that is another matter entirely.
Here are two maps to illustrate the point. The first is the NW Land Alliance Map from their Public website on the homepage, and the second is from the report generated by the consultants from the State process.
Site 46 on the Map above, is 100% identical to the groups’ map.
Given the opportunity to annex and rezone all of this land, all 1700+ acres, and make it all Industrial, it appears the landowners and the City of Hillsboro are ready to roll. The question is will this land get the final push it needs to get out of the Rural Reserves, into the Urban Growth Boundary, and ready for Fabs and Factories?
Is the Fix-In in terms of all the players running the table on this one? Because from our vantage point here in Hillsboro, it sure looks like it. That big block of land worth maybe $50,000,000 now would increase to well over $1 billion if Tina Kotek sweeps that pen West on a map. That could happen and happen soon. Time will tell.
In the end, I will say what I always say. There is NO substitute for transparency, communication, disclosures, and a fair process. Based on what I am already hearing, this decision is heading for an appeal, and we do not even have a bill yet. Very sad, and truly this should be avoided.
Dan Dias has a sound plan for the proposed Campus Site. That 800 acres can be a very nice big fab, have room for additional facilities and suppliers to build, and the 400 acres below it can, at a minimum, provide some real support. The rest of that 1400 acres? No way. Wrong place for industry, wrong time, and what appears to be the wrong approach with specious alliances between private and public parties.
As as 60 year resident of Hillsboro, it is disturbing to see our City officials falling all over themselves to grow Hillsboro. Our city has paid dearly for growth in so many ways I do not even care to enumerate them all. And I find nothing in our City codes, initiatives, nor our coveted 2035 Community Visioning, that includes our Mayor, Economic Development Team, or Councilors etc, going out and meeting with land owners who are in Rural Washington County. As far as I know, the people of Hillsboro who pay taxes and pay their salaries have never directed them to go grow the city and do it in this way.
A City meeting of the citizens of our city would likely see a relatively mixed set of feelings, with anger and outrage being strongly represented. Will we have such a meeting for such a massive expansion of our City? According to Mayor Callaway’s Letter to the Subcommittee, he expressed concerns and reservations about Section 10-4, which would require the Governor to hold a Public Hearing. He does not think that is a good idea. In addition, he asked the Committee to “Make the Governor’s decision permanent and final with either no appeals or appeals being expedited.” This would mean that no party could appeal a decision, no matter how badly affected they might be. This would be unprecedented, unfair, and so Un-Oregon that Governor McCall would take a few spins in his grave.
I have said it many times; I like Steve, Dan, and all of our Councilors. But from a moral and procedural standpoint, this is one of the times we are miles apart. I am quite sure that the plan, as Hillsboro proposed it, with no hearings, no open meetings, no transparency, and a loose process of private meetings in closed rooms, is not the right thing for Oregon not supported by the majority of the people they owe their allegiance to, and not good for Hillsboro.
Also- last week’s hearing included over 190 letters of strong opposition to this Bold and Brace land use process- which is something we rarely see. Here is an excerpt from just a few of them:
Nellie McAdams 1000 Friends of Oregon
The process of planning for, siting, and readying land for industrial facilities is a difficult and
specialized expertise. The legislature (and the Governor) are not designed to do it themselves.
The Department of Land Conservation and Development and city and county planning offices
are the bodies that are designed to (and best able to) do this work. We encourage you to hear
testimony from the Department of Land Conservation and Development on the process of siting
industrial land, and about the industrial lands inventory.
Both ag and semiconductor industries can, and should co-exist for the benefit of our economy,
natural resources, and food systems.
We therefore respectfully urge the Committee to remove Sections 10 & 11 from SB 4.
Robert Bailey; Save Helvetia Board Member
Since 2014, the NW Hillsboro Alliance organized. There are multiple parcel holders in the 1,700
acres south of Highway 26 and adjacent to NW Jackson School Road. They were aware from
2009 that the city of Hillsboro and Washington County had them “slated” for urban reserve
status. It appears that a developer was busy signing them up for a mega parcel buy out. Their
designation was never “formalized”, as it was thrown out when the Washington County plan
was declared illegal by the State Court of Appeals. However, they assert that they were
“robbed”. Had they testified and gained “standing” they may have been able to assert their
case at the court of appeals level. They organized and have made their case to Representative
Sollman, now Senator Sollman. She has introduced three bills over the years in various attempts to break the Grand Bargain and enfranchise their development. They make the case
that they are not irrigated and thus are less valuable as farmland. They also make the case that
they are adjacent to Hillsboro, Highway 26, and Hillsboro will have infrastructure that can
That area however has some of the last remaining Class 1 and Class 2 soils, has ample sub-irrigation, is a continuation of the Helvetia slopes to the north, and has multiple tributaries of
McKay Creek from which to draw water from. Many of the parcels have been in the same families for some time and consequently their family trees have grown and there are now many
shareholders awaiting a buyout. This has contributed to the pressure for a change in their zoning.
Senator Sollman has a six-year history with the parcel holders. She has sponsored three bills to
overturn HB 4078 (Grand Bargain/Rural Reserves) and designate the 1,700 acres as urban reserves.
SB 186 (2017)
HB 4075 (2018)
HB 2832 (2021)
Upon a re-designation of these lands, the groundwork would be laid for fortunes to be made.
Rod Park SB 4 -Farmer and Former METRO Commissioner
This Billcould be a very good bill for farmers, the public, and the state’s economy if sections 10 and 11 were
deleted. It would then concentrate efforts to attract the semiconductor industry to those areas within the
current UGB or urban reserves, and it would honor the Grand Bargain of HB 4078.
It would support all of Oregon’s and local government’s economic development plans that are already
adopted through comprehensive planning; maintain our competitive advantage in semiconductor job
expansions; and protect our farms, forests, rangelands, and watersheds.
The proposed legislation does a disservice to the counties, cities and towns that have zoned industrial
lands and have held onto these lands for industrial uses. It is difficult to hold these areas as landowners
often want to sell, especially when the local jurisdiction has invested in roads, sewer, water, and other
needed infrastructure so the land will be “shovel ready” for an industrial user.
We need the state to support, not undercut their vision by investing in these lands rather than add to the
speculative land grabs the Grand Bargain was supposed to curb.
The urban growth boundary process is ongoing and does anticipate growth which is why there is a 20
year land supply held within them, adjusted on a timely schedule.
What it can’t anticipate is an end run like SB 4. If lands outside UGB’s and urban reserves are utilized, it
would be highly unlikely those lands would be “shovel ready” within the required timeline. Between 2016
and 2021, 95 percent of the 37 applications to bring land into a UGB were approved of which 80 percent
were within one year (that included 9 industrial lots).
We should be investing in and locking down the industrial land we already have.
Please support removing Sections 10 and 11 and create a win for agriculture and a win for the state’s