Chance Tuesday to comment on future of Everett mill site

EVERETT — If you want to sound off on how the city should steer development at Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s former waterfront mill property, there’s a chance to do so on Tuesday.

An Everett Planning Commission hearing that night is one of the last chances to share your thoughts on how the city should zone the property. It’s scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Everett Station.

The public opinions the city has heard so far have urged policies for the site that would promote job creation, environmental cleanup and public access. City planners hope to head in that direction by keeping the area zoned for heavy industry.

“Going back to our initial survey, people have said they want jobs down there,” senior city planner Jim Hanson said.

The commission intends to whittle four potential zoning options down to one. Commissioners expect to revisit the choices at another public hearing on Oct. 23, then make a recommendation to the City Council.

Decisions made now could affect the future of the waterfront area for decades to come.

Most of the waterfront area in question is now zoned for heavy manufacturing with a designated deepwater port. The mill property, which covers about 66 acres, makes up the bulk of the 92-acre area that’s under discussion.

The paths forward include: making no changes to the existing zoning; making code changes to encourage heavy industry that relies on deepwater access; promoting a business park with public trails and other amenities that rely less on the waterfront; or promoting a mix of businesses, with some that require access to the water and others that don’t.

More than 700 workers lost jobs when Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark shut down the mill in April. The same month, Everett hosted its first informational meeting about the site’s future. Other public meetings have followed, with some attracting more than 100 people.

Everett, to date, has fielded more than 200 comments about the best uses for the old mill and surrounding properties, which city planners call the Central Waterfront Planning Area. The area includes 2,800 feet of shoreline, plus access to deep water and a railroad line. It does not include Naval Station Everett or the Port of Everett.

Some of the important factors city staff have weighed: creating family-wage jobs; encouraging uses that are compatible with the port and Naval Station Everett; environmental cleanup; and public access.

In July, the City Council extended a development moratorium on the site by six months. The hold on processing any permits or other approvals for the site is now in place until Feb. 15.

The extra time is intended to give the city more time to work on planning the site’s future. The city hired a consultant to help with the work.

Kimberly-Clark, meanwhile, continues trying to woo buyers for the mill site, as demolition crews make progress dismantling the structures there.

Bob Brand, a Kimberly-Clark spokesman, said the company appreciates Everett’s planning process and is optimistic that the city’s work will conclude by the end of the year.

“We continue to actively market the property locally, domestically and internationally and have received some interest,” Brand said. “However, at this time we can’t comment on any specific prospective buyers due to nondisclosure agreements.”

Industrial zoning would put the land to its best use, said Dave Speers, a partner with Kidder Mathews, the Seattle-based commercial real estate firm hired to sell the mill property.

Cambria Contracting, Inc., of Lockport, N.Y., began demolition in August. The last buildings are expected to come down by next spring, Brand said.

That work may have gone unnoticed by passing motorists and neighbors because it began on the water side of the property.

“The general public, from the street, should start seeing the general demolition shortly,” Speers said.

A looming issue for the site is environmental cleanup.

That includes dioxins — toxic substances thought to cause cancer in humans— that have been found in the waterway next to the plant at a level 15 times higher than what the state considers safe. The dioxins in sediment under the water are a result of the bleaching process used in making paper.

There’s also contamination at parts of the site, left by oil companies located there for much of the 20th century.

Tim Nord from the state Department of Ecology’s Toxics Cleanup Program reported having cooperative discussions with Kimberly-Clark about what steps to take.

“I don’t see that the cleanup is going to interfere with any future development or any buyer,” he said.

The state previously estimated cleanup could take about three years, but Nord said last week the timetable depends on what they find.

In Western Washington, former mill sites have found new uses as marine terminals in Tacoma and Vancouver and as a boat building and repair facility in Anacortes.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465;

f you go

The Everett Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday about the future of the 92-acre Central Waterfront Planning Area, which includes the former Kimberly-Clark mill site.

The hearing includes a discussion of four different visions for the area and changes to development regulations.

Time: 6:30 p.m.

Place: the Weyerhaeuser Room on the fourth floor of Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave.

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