Stick with the original plan

Constant pressure, constantly applied. Whenever the activist mantra works — as it might with Everett’s Riverfront development — citizens are emboldened. Civic engagement, at least sometimes, kindles meaningful change.

In Everett, simply preserving the status quo can qualify as a win. That may be the situation with the Riverfront property, a shoulder of industrial land that will determine Everett’s social and cultural life for the next 100 years. As The Herald’s Noah Haglund reports, Bellevue developer Polygon Northwest is backpedaling from some proposed changes to its Planned Development Overlay (development-speak for the overarching vision.) A central park-green space is back on the table and more than a third of the houses can be accessed along alleyways.

Polygon’s current proposal focuses on one of three parcels in the Riverfront area — 40 acres on the south end next to the Lowell neighborhood. The plan calls for about 230 single-family houses there, Haglund reports.

“They are going back to a plan that is very similar in layout…in the way the streets and blocks are laid out, to the Oliver-McMillan plan,” Everett planning director Allan Giffen told The Herald.

The city, which owned the property including the site of the infamous 1984 tire fire, invested $80 million in environmental clean-up and infrastructure, developing a blueprint to ensure a sustainable return on investment. The vision was a pedestrian-friendly, diverse, mixed-use development. The plan includes plenty of green amenities, innovative design schemes, a town center with retail, and mixed-income neighborhoods. That plan (with plenty of public input) was enshrined in the development agreement with the original purchaser, Oliver-McMillan. When Oliver-McMillan sold the property to Polygon Northwest in May, the agreement went with it.

At the Jan. 7 Planning Commission meeting, most citizens underscored the need to stick with the original vision. Former Everett city Councilmember Bob Overstreet focused on the commercial node of the urban village concept and the need for density. Others, including Kristin Kelly of Futurewise and the Pilchuck Audubon Society, Bob Jackson and Charlene Rawson also argued against fiddling with the plan. CJ Ebert and Bill Messner supported the amendment, pointing to an area of consensus, that Polygon is a well-regarded developer.

The recommendation from the Feb. 11 Planning Commission meeting, more minor than major tweaks, now goes to the City Council. We still hope that the council takes the long view, stays the course and votes “no.”