Update 10-27-22: The Herald is retracting any conclusive statements we have made about what Ordinance 6410 actually does until we confirm its impacts. The code language is confusing. As a result, revisions and corrections have been made to our story. My sincere apologies to the staff at the Hillsboro Economic Development department, Dan Dias, in particular. I realize this story could have been done differently. Rather than pull it down, I will leave it up for context with the clarifications that were made. This was not my best work- I will continue and work hard to be at my very best. The moral hazard of living here my whole life and dealing with these changes has hit me hard. The City of Hillsboro does important work; I may not like its tactics and methods. In this case, the information we were provided by a reader and land owners appears to have been an inaccurate interpretation of the situation. The article, as written below with the clarifications, we believe to be an accurate portrayal of the State of Play in North Hillsboro for the Industrial lands we are mentioning.
Tonight the Hillsboro Planning Commission will hear a zone change request for several parcels of Industrial land in the Hillsboro Tech Park and the North Hillsboro Industrial Area. This zone change and associated property annexations do not happen every day because when this happens, lands on the edge of our city are brought from Washington County into the City of Hillsboro forever. When they are annexed, their zones change as well.
Many of these sites have been small working farms since the day our valley was discovered. So these changes are meaningful, and poignant, and signal a further turning away from our most undeniable agrarian roots.
Tonight, the Hillsboro Planning Commission will be asked to hear arguments and a staff report to support the Nov 5th City Council annexation and simultaneously rezone of almost two dozen parcels North of Evergreen Road, near West Union school, and along Meek Road. Three separate applications are being processed and presented. These parcels appear to be headed towards use for more Data Centers to add to the massive build-up of the concrete and steel prison-like structures we already have blanketing the landscape in North Hillsboro.
One of these annexations/rezones will concern parcels in the Meek Road Industrial sub-area. The city of Hillsboro just purchased 4 of these parcels using taxpayers’ money totaling $73,000,000 dollars. These parcels are now owned by the Hillsboro Economic Development Council.
The City plans to annex them into the City and change the zoning from County FD-20 to IS (Industrial Sanctuary). The landowners who sold did pretty well. We requested information about these parcels four weeks ago. Our request for public information has gone unanswered. Please take a look at this map. Each owner’s name, the price the City of Hillsboro paid for the land, and the price per square foot (PSF) are shown below.
Each parcel purchased is a part of the Meek Road subarea of the North Hillsboro Industrial Area, which was zoned and created in 2013. As you all may know, Hillsboro restricted this area to predominately large employers who would bring the high-paying jobs we were promised would come. That was the battle cry.. the “why” that led the process to justify how all of this farmland came into the boundary in the first place. But City staff, led by Dan Dias at the Economic Development Department, probably never anticipated in 2013 that something called Data Centers would show up and buy up almost all of the land in the entire North Hillsboro Industrial Park. Data Centers do not provide many jobs, and the jobs they do create are not “high-paying”. Discussions were had in the past about restricting data centers, but those restrictions were delayed or never implemented.
Except for the Meek Subarea.
These Meek Road parcels (shown above) make up about 330 acres in total. This was the site that many believed would be home to the mysterious and now infamous Project Azalea; a massive Intel-like company that was coming to Hillsboro to create tens of thousands of jobs. At least, that was what the State and City were told. It never happened. But one thing did happen for the Meek Road parcels and these property owners. They were restricted from selling to data center providers because data centers were not allowed in this sub-area of the technology park.
As a commercial real estate broker in this area I am very active. In 2017, 2018, and 2019 I visited the City on behalf of clients who specifically wanted to know if data centers could be placed on these level and most attractive parcels along Meek Road. City staff repeatedly told me, the land owners, my clients, and others that NO DATA CENTERS would be allowed on these parcels, the zoning did not allow it. Period.
Our data center clients were willing to pay the Erdmans up to $16 psf back then, but because data centers were not allowed, that door was closed. The zoning restricted it. The same situation applies to the other owners in the Meek subarea.
As of today, a local data center has indicated they will pay up to $24 PSF for such land should one come for sale.
In addition, the City of Hillsboro completed a land use process to rezone all of the parcels of land West of the Meek Road subarea to become Industrial Sanctuary on August 16th, 2022. This was the much-publicized Jackson East area where landowners have been fighting to maintain their residential zoning for 4 years. Despite our Planning Commission voting against the Industrial designation for Jackson East and the land owners’ pleas and cries, the City Council ruled that these owners would be zoned Industrial. This Ordinance is now known as Ordinance 6410. See the Jackson East Map attached.
EDITED 10-26-22: The Herald first reported that it was possible that the Meek Road Parcels may have zoning altered to allow data centers, and that would increase the land values. As the story unfolded, it became clear that was not the case. As of this date, the Meek Road parcels nor any of the Jackson East Parcels can have data centers on them as a primary use, only as a secondary use that is in support of the primary use. This restriction will, for the time being, prevent additional data centers from being built. And it will most definitely limit these parcels’ value.
- The Herald has asked if the City is under contract to sell any of the parcels it just bought. No answers. Our questions about the Cities plans for the lands or if the properties are for sale also remain answered. Silence is a powerful answer and we are fairly certain there is a big Industrial fish in the Hillsboro pond. We shall see.
We will update this story as information comes in-
If Data Centers are eventually allowed, the issues raised by the Herald’s earlier article will take center stage. For now, we retract any definitive statements we made and leave the story at this stage.
Should the parcels be rezoned to allow data centers, there is no doubt that the City or the owner will enjoy a large increase in value at that time- up to $50,000,000 in today’s market.
Below is a list of some of the Zone Changes and Ordinances that got us to this point
North Hillsboro Industrial Area – 2013
On 4/29/2013, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development approved the City of Hillsboro Plan Amendment DLCD File Number 001-13. This plan amendment was done in order to bring Industrial land into the City of Hillsboro’s boundaries and planning jurisdictions to satisfy a need to have large industrial sites available for development for large industrial users. These users, like Intel, were going to bring the region hundreds of thousands more “high-paying jobs” like they had done in the past. Passed as Hillsboro Ordinance 6047, HILLSBORO COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENT 1-13 NORTH HILLSBORO industrial AREA COMMUNITY PLAN AMENDMENT, it paved the way for another 335 Acres of farmland to be made available for industrial developers and end users.
Owned by 9 private parties, the land was suddenly worth a whole lot more, and together the parcels could make up 1-5 major employment sites. At the time, these sites were a triumph because good industrial sites had become hard to locate, and the Ronler Acres Intel site nearby had become the goliath of the State of Oregon for employment and revenues. The prospect of more was on everyone’s mind, and no doubt all pro-growth and revenue-hungry public and private sector players were licking their chops. The brokerage community, which I am a part of, moved in fast to take up the charge but without sewer and water nearby and with industrial land prices at $3 to $4 per sf the owners were not ready to sell.
Here is a map of those parcels from Hillsboro Ordinance 6047
House Bill 4078 – The Grand Bargain – 2014
In 2014 the State, City, and County worked out an even bigger expansion for Washington County to expand our Industrial and Residential boundaries in a very unprecedented way. That process and much bigger land grab were known as The Grand Bargain, more technically known as House Bill 4078. That process was how the City of Hillsboro and the lucky landowners were able to get the hundreds of acres of farmland converted to what we now call South Hillsboro, where 8,000 homes are being built. To this day, the 2014 decision has laid out the areas that Hillsboro can and can not grow. The group known as SaveHelvtia.org did a masterful job in protecting the areas North of US 26 leading up into Helvetia. Also, House Bill 4078 set up what is known as Rural Reserves and Urban Reserves, which define the areas that are reserved for rural uses and those that can have a future (50-year window) for additional urban expansion.
House Bill 4078 “The Grand Bargain,” created these rigid zoning lines as seen on the map above
Hillsboro Technology Park – 2014 to 2022
It did not take the City of Hillsboro long after The Grand Bargain passed to immediately begin working on a big area of the land that had just come available. From the City of Hillsboro website, you will find this map and this write-up:
“The next stage of development in the Hillsboro Industrial District is the Hillsboro Technology Park (HTP), which
includes 700-acres (2.8 million sq m) of vacant land that is designated for industrial development (Figure 1). This
competitively-located area is planned for high technology and advanced manufacturing companies and corporate campuses. Approximately half of the 700-acres (2.8 million sq m) must be developed in large lots (>50 acres/ 202,350 sq m) and is reserved for single users. The development area is organized around the Crescent Park Greenway trail that will be located along Waible Creek—a regionally significant natural open space corridor with opportunities to connect to trails and recreational amenities. The City is moving forward on strategic investments in infrastructure, natural resource mitigation, and enhancement that will greatly reduce development and startup time for companies. The City will partner with employers to aggregate development sites, streamline development processes and participate in infrastructure improvements to meet business-driven needs and timelines. Companies interested in pursuing opportunities in the HTP are encouraged to work directly with City of Hillsboro Economic Development staff to explore the possibilities for business growth.”
This map is pretty old because if you go there today, you will not find much vacant land. In the bat of an eye, almost all of this land has been gobbled up by data centers. Hitachi is the one bright spot, and Amazon will soon be running almost 1,000 vans from this “Tech Park”.
North Hillsboro Urban Renewal District – The Herald has brought you stories in the past where we have covered how the city has spent tens of millions of dollars to develop the areas mentioned above. You can review how the Urban Renewal District works in the story right here but suffice it to say that up to 200 Million dollars will be in play and pledged by the City / Taxpayers to make the land in this area ready for development. That process is happening now. That process is allowed and supported by the North Hillsboro Urban Renewal District, created in 2014. You can review that plan by clicking the link below.