Everett, Cemex close to completing 100-acre land transfer

EVERETT — After nearly two decades of waiting, a deal to provide south Everett with almost 100 acres of property for new parkland is coming to fruition.

As a bonus, the city would receive $2.4 million over the next four years, and about 130 jobs are expected to be added to the south Everett industrial area near Paine Field.

The deal dates from a 1998 development agreement between the city and CSR America in which the company was allowed to redevelop part of the Associated Sand and Gravel quarry into industrial land in exchange for giving another 100 acres to the city for parks.

The quarry was the source for a lot of cement used in building up the Puget Sound region in the 20th century, including the 1962 World’s Fair and the Space Needle.

The redeveloped industrial parcels are now home to companies such as Food Services of America and, more recently, Electric Mirror. About 13 acres of the land on the south side of Sievers-Duecy Road were turned over to the city in 2001. The city built the Phil Johnson Ballfields on that parcel.

But since then, little progress has been made. CSR spun off its mining operations as Rinker Materials in 2003, and Mexican cement conglomerate Cemex bought the company in 2007, just before the recession hit.

The sand and gravel quarry is almost mined out, with Cemex’s quarry near Granite Falls the company’s principal source of cement products. Cemex has been clearing and grading those future parks parcels only since last year in preparation for transfer.

Not that the city has immediate plans for the property. The city’s six-year parks plan doesn’t foresee developing parks there before 2020, and money has been tight.

“We have been in a position since the Great Recession where it’s been really difficult to find dollars for capital facilities,” said Paul Kaftanski, the city’s executive director who oversees the Parks and Recreation Department.

As far as parks go, the city has been in more of a “repair and renovate” mode in recent years, Kaftanski said.

Another cause for delay was that the city wouldn’t take over the property until Cemex restored it to a more development-ready state, including filling in the quarries and draining excess groundwater.

A new amendment to the original development agreement will speed up the transfer of the rest of the property and provide the city with funding to invest in parkland. The City Council is expected to vote on the amendment April 5.

Under the new agreement, Cemex would turn over 57 acres of property east of the ballfields immediately.

The final 30-acre lot, across Sievers-Duecy Road from the ballfields, has a retention pond on it that needs to be drained.

A high-tech process to drain the pond would be expensive. Instead, Cemex would continue to bring dirt, gravel or other fill to the site and allow the pond to drain out on its own. The fill would have to meet the state Department of Ecology’s standard for clean fill for residential developments, Kaftanski said.

The city would receive $2 million in five installments between now and Jan. 31, 2021, which the city could use to leverage more grant money to support eventual park development, Kaftanski said.

Cemex is essentially buying time and the city isn’t in a rush, said C.J. Ebert, a principal with Harbor Mountain Development, which has contracted with Cemex to create a site plan for the quarry.

“It’s not really necessary (now) for what the city wants to do. It’s easier to expend the money over time rather than all at once,” Ebert said.

The final element of the agreement carves out about 2.6 acres from that lot, which Cemex intends to sell to FedEx to build a new ground-distribution facility. The city would receive 50 percent of the proceeds of the sale, or $413,500, once the sale is finalized.

”The sale of land to FedEx is under contract,” Ebert said. “We can’t close until this takes place.”

Ebert said he understands the new FedEx facility would bring 130 new jobs to the area.

FedEx spokeswoman Mary Kate Patterson said via email that the company’s existing facility on Hardeson Road will relocate to the new expanded service center.

“Additional employment positions at the new service center will depend upon the needs of our customers,” Patterson said.

The money will come in handy when it comes time to develop more park space. It’s not enough to develop the whole property, but it’s a start, Kaftanski said.

“We think it’s a win-win for both parties, and a win for the community, too, because now we have some dollars that we could leverage for some additional dollars,” he said. “Cemex is avoiding a cost, but they’re sharing their cost savings with the city, and we’re getting all the land that we wanted to.”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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