Stand up for the waterfront

The upside of corporate personhood — the legal doctrine enshrined by the U.S. Supreme Court that corporations have the same constitutional protections as individuals — is that corporations might be said to exhibit human nature. Kimberly Clark, the Dallas-based Fortune 500 company that owns 66 acres of Everett’s central waterfront, is acting like a blood-and-bones human. He/she commits sins of omission and schemes to save as much dinero as possible.

As The Herald’s Noah Haglund reported Monday, Kimberly-Clark asked Everett city planners to waive the requirement that the former mill site be covered with topsoil and grass. In a June 10 letter, a K-C consultant argues that curtailing post-demolition work ensures better water runoff and creates “curb appeal” for potential buyers. It also will (here’s the sin of omission) save K-C money.

The onus is on city staff to make a recommendation. Then the City Council will need to step up. Haglund quotes City Council President Jeff Moore.

“If there’s something that creates a win-win that doesn’t harm our environment or our community, we should certainly look at it,” Moore said. “But we shouldn’t compromise the intent of our land action pertaining to the central waterfront district.”

The mill’s post-demolition future was brought into focus May 29 when Everett City Councilmember Brenda Stonecipher announced the discovery of significantly higher on-site levels of arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals. The information, confirmed by the city attorney and Department of Ecology, revealed differing takes on the council’s Oct. 10, 2012, meeting when zoning options and anticipated outcomes were debated.

At that time, Stonecipher and Councilmember Paul Roberts expressed concern that the company might skimp and market only to industrial users. The industrial designation precludes options that the public supports, including a comprehensive clean-up and public access.

“This latest salvo from K-C makes it clear that they intend to circumvent that option in any way they can,” Stonecipher wrote in an email to Haglund

K-C shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it. It’s not in the public interest.

Earlier this year, the city wisely contracted with former Ecology Director Jay Manning, and his judgment is critical.

Consistent with human nature, the K-C story arc feels prefigured. K-C is likely to sell the property to the Port of Everett. And the Public Records Act restricts transparency when it comes to real estate deals.

If timidity eclipses backbone — an all-too-human weakness — Everett-ites will have a gravel waterfront to gaze upon for a long, long time.

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