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Eugene forges deal for Hyundai

From staff and wire reports

Eugene appears to have taken a step toward keeping its Hyundai Semiconductor computer-chip plant and two future plants.

The Eugene City Council voted 6-1 on Wednesday to let Hyundai fill 8.1 acres of wetlands for phase three of its west Eugene computer-chip complex. A second reading of the ordinance and final vote is scheduled for Monday.

Once the 8.1 acres were filled, Hyundai would have nearly 16 acres on which to build its phase three plant. But in an interview after the vote, Hyundai spokesman John Lively said he doesn't know whether that will be enough land to fit the factory. In April, Hyundai asked the city for permission to fill up to a total of about 10.4 acres of wetlands to build phase three.

A Jackson County site in White City has emerged as one of several alternatives should Hyundai be unable to expand in Eugene. While the vote was a step toward Hyundai keeping the plant, local economic development officials said that may help the Rogue Valley in the long run.

Gordon Safely of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development said Hyundai may well be looking to build additional fabrication plants in the next few years. He fears that if Hyundai left Eugene it would be for a location outside the U.S.; the company has said it is considering spots in Korea and Scotland. He said keeping a plant in Oregon increases the chances of the company locating future plants in the Rogue Valley.

While Lively said he was happy that Eugene's elected officials on Wednesday took a big step toward resolving the issue, some Eugene residents said they were disappointed.

The city seems to have bent over backwards to accommodate Hyundai, said Bern Johnson, a member of the local group Citizens for Public Accountability.

The council's vote would amend the 8-year-old West Eugene Wetlands Plan to include the 56 acres of wetlands on Hyundai's 205-acre site and designate them variously for development, protection or restoration.

The amendments take effect only if the Lane County Board of Commissioners, which jointly sponsors the wetlands plan with the city, adopts the same set of changes. The board is scheduled to take up the issue Aug. 30.