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City moves ahead with North Hillsboro vision

About 1,300 acres may become 'urban renewal district' in city


An open house on plans for the North Hillsboro Industrial District drew 60 people to the Hillsboro Main Library last week to see what’s in store for what is now mostly open farmland and scattered private homes.

“Without urban renewal (the area will) stay as it is for a very long time,” Mark Clemons, the city of Hillsboro’s economic development director, told the crowd.

Metro, the regional government, determined the urban growth boundary in a series of three policy decisions over a dozen years.

It expanded the boundary, which sits south of Highway 26 and extends south to just past Evergreen Road between Jackson School Road and Brookwood Parkway, making room for large industrial lots — one 100-acre lot, two 50-acre lots and two more 40-plus acre lots.

“It’s up to us to make the large lots usable,” Clemons said, adding that “we’re really past that point of asking, ‘Should this be farmland?’

“A regional decision has been made that development should occur,” he said.

To do that, the city must compete for businesses on a global scale, Clemons said. Infrastructure — including roads, water, sewer, pump stations and enhancements to restore and open the Waible Creek corridor to pedestrians — must be in place and ready to go.

City officials propose making approximately 1,300 acres in the North Hillsboro area an urban renewal district.

Then, the city can set up a tax increment financing district, a tool where property taxes generated from new businesses and development pay for building the infrastructure.

In short, Clemons said, “We capture property taxes being paid by the company” to pay back bonds the city took out to build the infrastructure. “There is no additional public subsidy,” he said.

Cost estimates for completing infrastructure range between $110 million and $160 million, Clemons said.

City officials took their message to the Hillsboro School Board two weeks ago, where the idea of tax increment financing was met with a positive response.

Under a tax increment district plan, the school district stands to see more income once the area is built out and the tax increment financing is retired.

“If it weren’t for these efforts, you wouldn’t see growth,” City Manager Michael Brown told school board members.

Clemons told the board the city expects property values to grow five to seven times what it is now, which would add tax dollars to school district’s coffers.

Tax increment financing was used to develop Ronler Acres and Orenco Station in the 1980s and 1990s and the Hillsboro downtown area has been a tax increment financing district since 2010.

Judy Gentemann, whose mother lives on Meek Road in North Hillsboro, said she came to hear the information about the plan. “We’ll wait and see, I guess,” she said.

Meanwhile, Clemons predicted the plan would also boost area employment.

“We envision this area could provide 10,000 to 20,000 jobs. That is our 25-year projection,” Clemons said.

“This is not just Hillsboro’s industrial district. It’s the entire Portland metro area’s industrial district and the entire state’s industrial district. This is a significant area of vacant industrial land with potential for jobs, property tax revenue and public amenities,” he said.

Some at the open house, however, questioned the city’s fast-forward movement on establishing the urban renewal district and tax increment financing.

“Will there be a public vote?” asked Orenco resident Dan Bloom. Clemons said voters will not be the ones who decide, but the plan must be approved by city councilors.

Kyle Markley, who ran on the Libertarian ticket to be the District 30 state representative last November, wondered why the city was not letting the growth develop “organically, the way Genentech did. Genentech is in Area A (of the North Hillsboro Industrial area) and they did this without an urban renewal district.”

“Are you just trying to accelerate growth?” he asked.

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