By Ronnie Miles, NGCOA Director of Advocacy
Occasionally, I share with our readers issues being brought to our attention that impact our industry. Unfortunately, not all are favorable. For example, I recently received an email from our affiliate office in Oregon, informing us that some of their state legislators have recommended golf courses for commercial development over farmlands.
Fortunately, this story is not about golf versus farmers. First, on April 6th, the Governor signed a bill (SB0004), establishing the Semiconductor Manufacturing Opportunity Fund, to be administered by the Oregon Business Development Department.
The bill also granted the Governor the authority to designate certain lands to be included in their urban growth boundaries for specific industrial use. It also allows local governments to rezone lands for such use by modifying local ordinances.
This method for economic development is a generally accepted standard. However, in this instance, some of the opposing legislators were concerned about the language in the bill:
SECTION 10. (1) On or before June 30, 2024, the Governor may, by executive order, bring within an existing urban growth boundary designated lands for the purposes of providing lands available for industrial uses that relate to the semiconductor industry, advanced manufacturing, or the supply chain for semiconductors or advanced manufacturing.
It was this section of the bill that 19 Oregon state legislators were concerned with. They deduced this section of the bill failed to protect farmland. They were concerned the Governor would designate the use of farmland to construct a semiconductor manufacturing facility. Nineteen members of the Oregon legislature sent a letter to the Governor voicing their concern that the bill failed to protect farmland from development. They recommended the Governor choose two local golf courses because their land did not provide the regional and national benefits.
In their letter, they wrote:
“Governor Kotek, as you wade through the process of looking for sites that are in the 500-acre or less category, there are several alternative suggestions that differ from taking farmland out of production:
• Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course in North Plains is 350-acres. It meets the 3-mile criteria and could easily be converted to a semiconductor support site, close to the Silicon Forest. It is a member only course that caters to a few that can afford to join.
• The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Aloha. Again, within the 3-mile parameter and close to many of the other smaller existing semiconductor supply chain companies. This 319-acre site charges $79 a day to play golf and holds weddings and events that only members can host.
If we are going to look at open spaces and available land for semiconductors, we believe we should consider all open spaces – not just farmland.”
They should have acknowledged that in the original legislation, the landowner is the party required to request a rezoning. Based on current law in Oregon, eminent domain is not allowed for private commercial development.
The Oregon golf community is coming together to ensure state legislators and the Governor’s office know about golf's economic impact on their state. If a golf course owner elects to sell their golf course, that's a business decision. If this new law makes it easier to have it rezoned, that’s great!