Wednesday evening this week, the Oregon Joint Semiconductor On Semiconductors held their 9th meeting in the past four weeks. This meeting revealed that the weeks of hand-wringing over where to site the next massive semiconductor fabs could end up in the hands of Governor Kotek. In a released document known as LC 4320 ( LC 4320 Draft Proposal), this committee document proposes a number of things. The most powerful of which is that Governor Kotek herself will make the ultimate decision of where to place the State’s next wave of high-tech companies. This incredible power would mean Kotek would wield Billions and Billions of dollars with the stroke of a pen. Billions.
Given my 42 years of working in the real estate development field and having attended hundreds of hearings, this would be the most unusual thing we have ever done as a State. This incredible offer would place so much power in the Governor’s hands that there is no way it could be done fairly or objectively. To this point, the process of selecting land has been anything but transparent. Deal brokers, land owners, land use attorneys, and every form of huckster and pitchman have been working in the wings to get their lands placed into the Urban Growth Boundary. As we reported in the past and testified to the committee, we are hearing from landowners in Washington County who have NO IDEA that these hearings are taking place. Never before has a land use process like this been done without notice to the land owners.
In addition to the land use siting question, the committee proposes to take $200,000,000 from Oregon’s Rainy Day Fund for the newly created Semiconductor Fund. How it will be used is unclear. This money would be a drop in the bucket compared to what the Federal CHIPS ACT will offer.
Here is an excerpt from LC 4320:
The Committee is comprised of many great leaders, and at the helm is our very own Janeen Sollman of Hillsboro. You can see the members and get access to the all the videos right here:
I suggest you all watch this Video and fast-forward to around 49 minutes, where the Committee really gets into the financial incentives, offering new massive R&D tax credits and land use actions. Representatives Levy, Hansell, and Nguyen, in particular, did a great job of raising concerns about giving the governor the ultimate power. They want the Committee to focus on the sites they have been studying.
Senator Kate Lieber of Beaverton praised the land task force, which serves under the task force led by Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway, on their work to identify the sites. She stressed that for Oregon to land any of the Billions in Federal money and a new Fab, we need land pad ready within 2 years. “We need to be Bold; we need to put our best foot forward,” said the Senator.
Senator Daniel Ngyuen (Lake Oswego) spoke 55 minutes into the video in a very well-thought-out proposal that we, as a State, ask chip makers to pitch Oregon like an episode of Shark Tank. He believes we are guessing at what tech companies want and that to annex land or to come up with financial offers as a State without knowing what is wanted or needed. He is onto something. The decisions of what to annex and what to offer are being made in a vacuum without any concrete proposals in front of us.
Representative Ed Diehl (Salem) expressed concerns that the Governor is not the right person to lead to decide where these new fabs, if they come to Oregon, will go. “I think we are passing the buck, maybe, by saying Governor, you figure it out. Is it possible that this body could debate and discuss that…maybe figure out 1,2, or 3 sites, and say here are the sites..and these are the ones we decide?” said Diehl.
Senator Sollman asked the body to “Stay Tuned” for a legislative concept that is coming soon. Ok- this hearing went on and on along these lines.
After weeks of testimony and land discussions, the first draft of LC 4320 was put forth by someone in the process, with the knowledge that there was no way that the governor would make the final decision. Just last week, the committee clarified that the first two big sites must be in North Hillsboro or North Plains. So let’s just call this the classic Kabuki Theater, not much more than a distraction while the real legislation is worked on.
As we discussed and reported in our article As Hillsboro Residents Sleep, State Close To Adding Huge Land Expansion To City that over 10,000 people have read, the City of Hillsboro, Mayor Callaway, and our Economic Development Department have been extremely quiet on all of this. But they have certainly been anything but complacent. We know that meetings have happened with landowners recently, and some have been ongoing for at least two years with various landowners in North Hillsboro. The staff has made it clear in the past that we need 1,000 acres of additional Industrial. Areas 46 and 63, and 64 on the State task force maps are the places where growth can land. But Where? Which Ones? And who will hit the lottery and be selected?
You can see all of the sites that Mayor Callaway and his land task force have recommended to this Committee right here. SITES UNDER CONSIDERATION Page 9 has the Hillsboro sites.
So let’s bring all this noise in Salem back to Hillsboro. Three massive Intel plants have forever changed our community. For the good and the bad, Hillsboro is the tech center of Oregon and has one of the most robust concentrations of such companies in the world. There is no way in God’s Green Earth that Hillsboro will not be a big part of what will happen next—having said that, the City and various landowners are still at odds over the recent rezoning of some beautiful farms and acreage estates in North Hillsboro to Industrial. Against their will, over 25 landowners and homeowners at Meek and Sewell Roads were forced to become an industrial park. We can not afford to have that happen again! We should not let it happen again.
Because the Herald has been notified by land owners that offers and options are coming in from developers in the area, and because the City is active in this process, we must request that Hillsboro, as a government, answer how they want their involvement to be viewed. No doubt the City can buy and hold land for chip manufacturers. They have just done it and are doing it with Hitachi and others in North Hillsboro. In fact, the City just finalized the purchase of 144 acres on Meek Road and is preparing it for industrial users as we speak.
But the question is, will landowners be notified? Will this most unusual process of going outside the lines of our strict land use laws produce a fair outcome? Without information and transparency, and without rules, chaos can be the outcome. Maybe it is too late for that. But one thing Hillsboro can do, and must do, is to announce its procedures for this process and what its involvement is and will be as we move ahead. Who will provide land owners’ information, or will we? Who will hit the jackpot and have their land rezoned, gaining tens of Millions in value overnight? Who will end up living next to a Fab with chemicals, stacks, and thousands of cars next door?
These questions are going to City hall right now for an official response. After witnessing one land owner in North Hillsboro sell his land for less than $2 a square foot, and others sell for $15 dollars per square foot just months later, it is clear that the processes we have implemented have lacked transparency.
As a City and State, we preach equity, inclusion, and fairness. Yet here, we see very little of that being used in a land use matter. So let me close by saying we will be following up on this. We are being contacted and have information coming in. We ask you, landowners, to call us and share your notes, and we may call for a public forum on the matter very soon.
This is a big-time opportunity- a game changer. So we need this to happen, but we need it done right. If cronyism and special interests win the day at the end of this decision, we as a community and State will have failed. It is my belief that the Semiconductor Committee must see this through, handle the siting and final decisions, and the buck has to stop with them. They have done all the work, so now they must decide. Period.
Mayor Callaway so eloquently spoke in his State of the City about the Moral Authority the City has that overrides mere codes and rules. He is right- and this is one of those times that Moral authority must be played out. We will all win by holding open meetings here in Hillsboro and agreeing on the best path forward.
Stay tuned, folks.
Call Dirk at 503-799-8383 or email us at HillsboroHerald@gmail.com