The addition of just over 73 acres in southwest Woodburn near the freeway could ultimately entice more commerce to the area.
The Woodburn City Council approved the annexation in March along with the industrial land-use zoning for the site, known as the Weisz Family Properties.
"This is an annexation and rezoning of property," Woodburn Community Development Director Chris Kerr told the council. "There is no specific development with it at this time. That would come at a later time when they have a specific user ... about 75 acres total, 24 on the west side of I-5 (and) 50 on the east side."
Kerr added that zone changes on the undeveloped farmland to Southwest Industrial Reserve is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan.
A report to the city council noted that "annexing the territory into city limits would subject it to city taxing authority, including property tax that generates the largest source of funding for general fund services such as the library, policing and parks and recreation."
Kerr said this process has been on Woodburn's radar for some time.
"The city has been looking forward to having this property annexed into the city – and ultimately developed for industrial uses -- for some time," Kerr said. "It was part of the city's long, 12-year effort to bring these properties into the Urban Growth Boundary several years ago."
Kerr said necessary annexation procedures accounted for the long period of time between vision and action.
"There weren't any process issues related to this annexation; it's just that annexations take time and money to process, and often the owner doesn't want to move forward without a user," Kerr said. "I just think it was a matter of having a developer reach a purchase agreement for the property and move forward with the annexation."
In November of 2019 Greg Specht of Specht Development in Portland addressed the City Council to encourage it to include property in the west Woodburn area as part of the city's enterprise zone, which offers a tax abatement as an incentive to potential developers.
"We are in the business of competing for uses of industrial space, and we do so throughout the region," Specht told the council. "Many other jurisdictions have designated their industrial lands as enterprise zones, including Portland, Gresham, Hillsboro and especially Salem.
"Of particular note we have (competed with), and we continue to compete with the 600-acre Mill Creek Corporate Center in Salem, all of which is designated an enterprise zone," Specht added. "To not be able to offer the same benefits as our competition does put us at a competitive disadvantage."
At that time Specht said representatives from his firm met with a prospect regarding Woodburn acreage. That undisclosed prospect was looking for a 690,000-square-foot "new home" for up to 1,200 employees.
"The first question to me was 'is the land entitled? I said yes. The second question was, 'what incentives are available?'" Specht related. "I said we are working with the city to expand the enterprise zone."
That expansion was done, and now city officials hope that the annexation furnishes the next step toward realizing the long-term vision. Kerr clarified that the recently annexed land is not yet in the enterprise zone since it cannot be added legally prior to annexation. But the rest of the Southwest Industrial Reserve property is in the zone.
"The next step is getting an active user on the property. If that happens, they would need to go through the final development review process," Kerr said. "Hopefully, with the annexation done, one more regulatory hurdle is out of the way."
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