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The soon-to-be-vacated site of Kimberly-Clark’s Everett mill is valuable not only as real estate, but as an economic engine for Snohomish County and beyond.

Planning for what takes its place at this industrial waterfront location needs to be deliberative and inclusive, keeping in mind that decisions made now will have an impact for generations.

The City Council was wise to act on Mayor Ray Stephanson’s request for an emergency moratorium on permits for new uses at the site, a decision it unanimously reaffirmed Wednesday. This six-month timeout effectively keeps K-C from selling the site it will soon begin demolishing, allowing time for careful consideration of long-range planning, and for meaningful public input.

Both processes get under way in earnest Tuesday, when the public is encouraged to attend an open house and community meeting in the Weyerhaeuser Room at Everett Station (3201 Smith Ave., fourth floor). The open house, where city staff will be on hand with maps and photos and to answer questions about the 92-acre Central Waterfront Planning Area, starts at 4 p.m. The community meeting, which includes an overview of the planning process, follows at 6:30 p.m. More opportunities for public input will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

The area sits at the heart of the city’s working waterfront, alongside the Port of Everett, Naval Station Everett and a major rail line, and at the edge of a deep water port. Its potential as a magnet for good-paying jobs must be a prime consideration, especially since the K-C mill’s closure is eliminating around 750 of them.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that future industrial uses can’t take up a smaller environmental footprint, or can’t leave more in the way of public view corridors. As City Councilmember Drew Nielsen suggested at Wednesday’s meeting, the planning process might include discussion of adding public waterfront access from the west end of Hewitt Avenue, perhaps connecting it to the southern boundary of the K-C site.

The closure of a major manufacturing plant on the waterfront presents the city with a unique opportunity, and a heavy responsibility to encourage uses that do the most for economic growth with the least negative impact.

The transformation won’t likely happen quickly, given the potentially extensive and expensive cleanup of contaminated areas for which K-C will remain responsible. But without this moratorium, pieces of the K-C site could be sold off and new rights for development could become vested without the careful planning process that’s so clearly needed.

That process includes the public, and it’s about to start. Interested citizens should get ready to share their ideas.

To be added to the mailing list for the Central Waterfront Planning Area process, call the city of Everett Planning Department at 425-257-8731 or send an email to planning@ci.everett.wa.us.

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