By Phil Bannan, Sr.
Visionary communities recognize and leverage their unique economic assets to market and promote the most business growth in their respective communities. With the impending vote on the Central Waterfront District zoning decision set for Wednesday, I urge our city officials to heed the unanimous recommendation of the Everett Planning Commission and retain the maritime industrial zoning of the Kimberly-Clark property.
The K-C site is a rare and unique asset, as it is located on a restricted federal navigation channel with direct deep-water access. According to the city of Everett Planning Department information, it is one of three sites on the coast available for deep-water shipping. The upland property includes five rail spurs and an abutting rail line, and is serviced by several truck access routes and excellent utilities. It is also sandwiched between two federally secured facilities.
Major economic centers are built around land and geographic assets like the Kimberly-Clark property. Communities rely on their deep water assets to build their job base. Everett is no different. Our natural deep-water harbor is why we are home to Naval Station Everett and one of the primary reasons we are home to The Boeing Company. These two employment centers provide tens of thousands of jobs in the ity of Everett. We need to protect this asset to remain viable for these entities long term.
In order to continue to build and attract a strong manufacturing base, it is imperative to have a sound transportation system. It is irresponsible to look at job creation within the four corners of a parcel of land, but rather examine the ripple effects that the resource has for attracting new business into our community.
As recent as 2003, we were reminded of the importance of having a deep-water port. When Boeing was seeking viable sites to locate the manufacturing facility for the 787 Dreamliner, one of the requirements to compete for the airplane program was to prove it had 24-hour deep-water access.
The Planning Commission said that the maritime zoning alternative (M2) for the site “promotes the best long-term interests of the Everett community.” I would have to agree. The city should provide for the broadest-based zoning as possible to attract all types of businesses to locate to the K-C property to replace the jobs that were lost. Alternative 4 best serves the Everett community because if provides the most flexibility and the greatest opportunity to attract and protect jobs.
One of the alternatives calls for a business park concept. I contend we have enough land earmarked for business parks. Currently, the highest vacancy rate throughout the Puget Sound area is “flex industrial/research” space that is running over 20 percent. The research corridor along I-405 from Woodinville to Mill Creek is more than 30 percent vacant. There are over 40 business park-type properties throughout the Snohomish/North King County area.
Keeping the K-C site maritime-related provides the greatest flexibility and likelihood for attracting businesses to fill these vacant pieces of real estate. It’s sometimes hard to see, but business and trade go hand-in-hand. The goods our community uses everyday comes through our seaports.
The property cleanup requirements should also be factored into the zoning decision. Like it or not, the site is a brownfield that is heavily contaminated. As a result, it is not the place for public access. The public or maritime industry should not be put at risk by considering recreational activities on this property or in the adjacent waterway. The K-C site is on a secured waterway with the Navy to the north and west and the Port to the east. The public cannot have unlimited access to this waterway for national security reasons.
We have a wonderful waterfront that is accessible to the public. My business is located in the port’s Waterfront Center in the marina district that is full of trails, marinas, Jetty Island beaches, overlook areas, etc. It’s important to have a balance of jobs and recreation in communities. Now we just need the jobs to support this recreational waterfront.
I urge the City Council to heed the unanimous recommendation of the Planning Commission and select Alternative 4. It provides for the most flexibility, and allows the market to dictate the best use for the site. I think we can all agree that we want to see the jobs lost as a result of the mill closure restored. Alternative 4 creates the greatest opportunity for this to happen in a timely fashion by preserving the future land owner’s flexibility.
Our maritime waterfront has been key to our past, and should be the building block for our future.
Phil Bannan, Sr. is a former Everett port commissioner.