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Archived posts for the ‘Land Use Issues’ Category

Govn’ts Relationship to Business?

Opinion pieces like this remind us what we’re up against. Please send more emails to your local County Commissioners & Metro reminding them our food comes from all over the region so we need their help to protect farmland in Washington County too! This article also brings home how important it is to support candidates like Rex Burkholder for Metro president because they share our vision for farmland protection and livability.

I liked the comments that SaveTheFarms wrote at the end of the article…
“Government’s Relationship to Business? Politician gets campaign contribution from speculator/developer. Politician decrees that land of speculator/developer shall be urban. Speculator/developer cashes in. Politician gets campaign contribution from speculator/developer . . . or maybe a job upon retirement. Farmland is the local politician’s land bank but he doesn’t have to make any deposits; he just makes withdrawals.”

Help Protect Farmland!

The Portland metro area is in the midst of making land use decisions that will affect us all for the next 50 years. Good decisions will protect farmland and natural resources for the next generation. Bad decisions and we’ll have 30,000 acres of sprawl – forever. If you care about food and farmland for the future then please contact your elected officials today! Email the Metro Council and Multnomah County Commissioners listed below:



Ask them to actively support Small Urban Reserves and the Agriculture & Natural Resource Coalition Map because…

  • We Need to Protect Our Local Food Shed! Small urban reserves protect the local food & farms that Portland is famous for. Many of the farms that serve our local CSA’s & Farmers Markets are in Washington County too, so Multnomah County Commissioners need to need to think regionally.
  • Local Food  = Food security
  • Multnomah County is the #1 county in the state in agricultural processing and that’s jobs. We have those jobs here because we have close-by farms and a wide variety of farm products. Multnomah is the most urban county in the state and the smallest land-wise, but it plays a critical part of the ag industry and many jobs depend on local food. Multnomah County commissioners should care about the whole region in this discussion and decision.
  • Climate Change & Peak Oil could dramatically change the way we live over  the next 50 years.  Compact urban areas means less driving and protection of the farms, forests, and natural areas that sequester carbon and absorb water from the increased rain, run-off, flooding, that we will experience from climate change.
  • Urban Expansion is Expensive! Metro estimates it will cost $10-40 billion just to maintain the current tri-county infrastructure. Bridges, roads, parks are suffering from lack of funding and it’s only going to get more expensive to do that work. Where is the money going to come from? Building houses on at the edge of the UGB destroys the farmland forever AND it is 2-3 times more expensive than accommodating that same population inside the existing UGB.  Let’s reinvest in neighborhoods, light rail, bike paths, and parks –not sprawl!

The High-Tech Myth & Urban Reserves

By Save Helvetia

Why Hillsboro and Washington County don’t need more urban reserves for large-lot industrial sites: the high-tech myth

Cherry-picking industries: a flawed model
Hillsboro bases its aspiration plan on building on its “success” in attracting high-tech employers in three cluster industries:  High-tech manufacturing (Intel),  solar-cell manufacturing (Solar World)  and bio-pharma (Genentech). They justify needing thousands of acres of large-lot sites to accommodate additional companies in these industries.  This is a flawed business model.  (See Allen Amabisca testimony to Metro Council, 1/20/2010)

Cluster proximity less important
“Tech companies in the 1990’s wanted to be in Hillsboro because they were tied to production work at Intel, Tektronix or other manufacturers.  Today, tech workers in much smaller startups don’t need to be in Hillsboro because they building iPhone apps instead of Intel chips.  And their workers increasingly want to be closer to downtown’s bike-friendly streets, restaurants and art galleries.” “Real estate troubles extend to commercial properties”, Ryan Frank, The Oregonian, September 12, 2009.  Also, see testimony of Noel Arnold to Metro Council, October 2009.

Small companies prevalent
Of the 400 Silicon Forest companies operating, more than 360 are 20 employees or less.  The majority of new firms since 2005 are focused on services and software, not volume manufacturing that requires a large plant footprint. (See Charlie Young testimony to Metro Council, October 15, 2009).

Software jobs were up 12% from 2006 to 2008.  Although a small part of overall state economy, software is the fastest growing part of the high-tech sector. “Oregon’s high-tech jobs hit nearly three-year low”, Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian, September 17, 2008.

Vacancies in the Sunset Corridor office market haven’t recovered since 2001.   Vacancies are at 22%.    AmberGlen Business Center (500,000 square feet)  bought for $67.9 million in 2007, sold for $27 million. “AmberGlen sales scrapes bottom”, Ryan Frank, The Oregonian, January 15, 2010

Intel not expanding
Intel’s employee count in Washington County is roughly the same (15,000) in 2010 as it was in 1999 due to transferring transactional processing jobs (accounts payable, human relations), automation and transferring manufacturing jobs to other countries.  Its newest, largest manufacturing site being built in Vietnam – plants in Philippines and elsewhere closing.  Fab 20 closed at end of 2009, laying off 1,000 (considered “aging” at 13 years old and 120,000 square feet).   It has a large concrete slab near the Hillsboro Stadium from a canceled expansion.  Still unbuilt, 92-acres south of West Union Road.  “Intel closing plant, costing Hillsboro 1,000 jobs”, Mike Rogoway, The Oregonian, January 21, 2009.

Solar heading for glut
Lots of new start-ups got initial funding in 4Q2009.  With China entering production, oversupply expected, prices dropping, cost-cutting necessary, fall-out expected, analysts are cautious about solar stocks.  As lead investor, Intel donated 20 acres of its 92-acre West Union unbuilt campus to SpectraWatt, a solar start-up.  SpectraWatt was unable to secure financing and incentives from the state, ended up moving into a former chip factory in New York  after determining that  retrofitting an existing factory was more attractive than building a factory from scratch. Intel’s 92 acres is still unbuilt. “SpectraWatt Moves HQ and Factory Plan to NY”, Ucilia Wang, GreentechSolar, April 7, 2009.

Hillsboro does not have a bio-pharma industry – they have a packaging plant.  FDA regulations require pharmaceutical  firms to have packaging plants in the U.S.  When informed that their logo figured prominently on Hillsboro’s Aspirations Plan, Genentech requested that it be removed.

The Portland area is not a budding center for bio-tech firms.  They are located elsewhere in the U.S.. Biomedical clusters will chase incentives.  Example:  OHSU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute moved its research lab to Port St. Lucie, Florida, in 2008-2009.  Bio-medical firms want to be near other life-sciences companies.  VGTI is near Scripps Research Institute, Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies  and others.  Researchers do not have to spend time chasing grants with $60 million in assistance from the Florida Innovation Incentive Fund. “Strong Medicine in Southeast Florida”, Jack Lyne, Site Selection, January, 2008.  

Available:  High-tech manufacturing sites – cheap to refurb!
Oregon’s technology related employment is down 27% from 2001 peak and at its lowest level since 1996.

  • Credence – Downsized from 430 employees to 100 – moving to smaller space in Beaverton
  • IDT – Leaving Hillsboro – fully operational fab near Intel and SolarWorld – available 2011
  • RadisSys – Transferring manufacturing to Asia – available mid-2010
  • Lattice Semiconductor – Moved all warehouse operations to Singapore in 2009

North of 26 lowest in economic productivity
NAIOP’s Economic Mapping Project (used by HIllsboro to show how well they are doing in high-tech and why they need so many urban reserves) shows Sub-Area 1 (north of Highway 26) as the lowest performing area for tech:  lowest market value, lowest property tax per acre, lowest payroll.  Used pre-recession 2005 data.  No tech cluster anchor, long-vacant buildings.  Low wages: kids pizza party place, warehouses, churches inside buildings built for tech that didn’t materialize in last 10 years. ( See Cherry Amabisca and Steve Kasper testimony to Metro Council, January 20, 2010).

More info available at Save Helvetia

In the News, Urban & Rural Reserves

Farmer, nature advocates, 1000 Friends call for another cut to urban reserves proposal, Hillsboro Argus, Jan 15th 2010

New urban reserves map floated, Capital Press, Jan 14th 2010

Farmers, environmentalists press Metro for more rural reserve acres, The Oregonian, Jan 12th 2010

A lesson in the common ground beneath their feet, Blue Oregon, jan 12th 2010

Urban Growth Boundary: Oregon Agriculture, Economy and Managed Growth, Cooking up a Story, Jan 11th 2010

Agriculture & Natural Resource Coalition Map News Conference, Jan 11th 2010

Unprecedented Coalition Proposes Reserves Map

The Agriculture & Conservation community has come together to form an historic coalition to support thoughtful & responsible recommendations for the Urban & Rural process. 

Farmers and conservation groups have often disagreed in the past, but on this issue we strongly agree: urban sprawl destroys valuable farmland, streams, and wildlife habitat. Our proposal achieves a balance of protection for agriculture and natural resources while providing for common sense future growth in the region,” said Washington County Farm Bureau President Dave Vanasche at a press conference Monday.

Supporters of the Agriculture & Natural Resource Coalition Map include…

Washington County Farm Bureau
1000 Friends of Oregon
Oregon Association of Nurseries
Portland Mayor Sam Adams
Save Helvatia
Coalition for a Livable Future
Tualatin Riverkeepers
Oregon Tilth
Portland Area CSA Coalition
Friends of Family Farmers
Audubon Society of Portland
Urban Greenspaces Institute
Slow Food Portland
Oregon Council of Trout Unlimited
Friends of French Prairie
Victoria Lowe, Forest Grove City Council
Scotch Church Road Families & Farms
Portland Farmers Market

More info about the Urban & Rural Reserves process is available at 

1000 Friends of Oregon and Cooking Up A Story and Metro

Farming in Urban Reserves?

By Laura

At a recent City Club of Portland Friday Forum, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey voiced a common misperception about Urban Reserves.

“There’s no down side to having too much urban reserves because if it’s not needed we won’t use it.”

We have too often heard this excuse for making Urban Reserves larger than necessary. Is it true? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

Farmers can technically continue to farm after their land is brought into the Urban Reserve. The real question is not CAN they farm, it is whether farmers actually WILL keep farming if their land is designated Urban Reserve. Planners know from years of experience at the edge of the UGB that speculation alone has reduced the number, size and viability of farms on the urban edge. If we loose farms now just due to proximity to the UGB, then we will only loose more farms with an Urban Reserves designation. This reduction in farming will happen based on the designation alone, regardless of whether the land is actually ever urbanized or not!

The knowledge that their land may eventually be urbanized, regardless of the timeline, discourages farmers from making the long term capital investments that are necessary to sustain a viable farming operation. It also discourages land owners from offering the long term leases to farmers that are necessary to sustain a viable farming operation. We also know from past experience along the edge of the UGB that speculation raises the price of land so even farmers who want to keep farming can’t afford to expand their operations. Already farmers are questioning their ability to continue in areas being considered for Urban Reserves. This article in the Hillsboro Argus is but one recent example.

We know that people in the Portland Metro region care deeply about protecting farmland. In a recent Metro survey, 70% said that protecting farm & forest lands should be the most important consideration for choosing between urban & rural designation. Please contact your county commissioner today and remind them to show restraint as they designate Urban Reserves. If we don’t, there will be a very real down side – we’ll lose the farms.