Having spent many a night poring over documents and testimony and maps related to the Urban and Rural Reserves, I was interested to read about the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce breakfast forum held last week between Metro Chair candidates Bob Stacey and Tom Hughes.
As the former Mayor of Hillsboro, Hughes is an ardent advocate for snatching up more of Washington County's high value farmland and turning it into commercial and residential real estate. It's essentially Hughes' plan for job creation for the Metro area, in fact. He supported the badly drawn Bragdon map for urban reserves, which chews up ridiculous amounts of land for likely urbanization.
“I’m the guy who believes we should make our existing land supply work,” Stacey said, pointing out the millions of square feet of underused and vacant real estate. “We’re deferring that problem if we keep on going out to the boundaries for more land.”
Hughes shot back by arguing that Oregon’s above-average unemployment will only turn around with a real-estate infusion.
“We can’t afford to blow off the expansion land,” he said. “The concern that I have based on my experience growing jobs in Hillsboro is that we need a balanced approach... Bob has carefully and thoughtfully looked at the problem of job creation–I have actually been involved in that process.”
"Balanced approach"? Hughes told me in a previous interview that Washington County needs 3-4 one hundred acre parcels in order to accommodate the next Intel, Solarworld, Nike or Genentech. Others have told me that they've heard Hughes say between 7-9 one hundred acre parcels. Yet there's little or no discussion by Hughes (that I'm aware of--and I hope his campaign will stop by here and correct me if I'm wrong) about using the land already inside the Urban Growth Boundary--specifically the hundreds of thousands of square feet of empty commercial real estate and land sitting in Hillsboro and Beaverton. And why there isn't a substantive discussion happening at the Washington County level about encouraging small business (and large business) in the downtown areas of Hillsboro and Beaverton. Both cities have downtown regions that are beginning to crumble (I know of at least one candidate for office that was given space in downtown Hillsboro for FREE, because it's virtually impossible to rent it out right now). And there is at least one enormous plot (known as the St Mary's property) that's near already established residential development--but still Hughes looks to the rural, ag areas of Washington County instead. It's senseless, in my opinion.
If this is Hughes notion of "balanced approach", then I'd hate to see what he thinks pandering to developers looks like.
Stacey, on the other hand, is actively articulating the need to use the massive amount of existing land we already have--and reinvigorate these areas to make them attractive to business.
What we really can't afford is to blow off what we already have in favor of building huge commercial buildings/offices that are only accessible by driving (which is what building out in the middle of Cornelius at the north of Council Creek is--as is building on Scotch Church Road or any number of these other agriculture areas that aren't near any substantial residential development whatsoever), especially since Washington County can't support the traffic they have now.