City wants more time to develop K-C mill site
Ecology says site will take years to clean up EVERETT - The city needs six more months to develop a plan for the former Kimberly-Clark mill site, but the wait so far is driving prospective buyers away.
Dave Speers, the real estate broker selling the site, said companies have walked away from negotiations when they learned the city’s development moratorium would prevent them from immediately starting work on the site. Speers said a high-tech company walked away three months ago specifically because of this uncertainty.
The site won’t be ready for development until the contamination is cleaned up.
It could take three years before the site will be ready by Ecology’s standards, but Ecology is willing to work with the new owners, said Ecology’s Tim Nord, manager of lands and aquatics cleanup. Ecology has at least six people working on the site as fast as they can, Nord said.
As Kimberly-Clark demolishes the buildings on the site, Ecology will clean up the land underneath, Nord said. Ecology determined the land and outlying water needs environmental cleanup, most likely stemming from the mill’s processing activities.
The city says it needs more time to complete its work conducting a public process and analysis for what to do with the waterfront site. Planning director Allan Giffen said he is confident the city can complete the process by February.
The City Council will take a final vote to extend the development moratorium six months to Feb. 15, 2013 at this week’s meeting. The planning commission last week voted 6-1 to recommend continuing the moratorium.
Kimberly-Clark pushed to have the moratorium end sooner, but city leaders rejected that.
“I don’t think that’s in the best interest of public policy,” Mayor Ray Stephanson said. “We are not going to shortchange the public,” calling the moratorium a “no-joke” process.
Kimberly-Clark, though, was able to get language added into the proposed moratorium extension that says the city should complete the work expediently.
“Kimberly-Clark is not opposing the proposed extension of the moratorium but we are concerned that it could create uncertainty in the minds of some prospective buyers,” company spokesman Bob Brand said. The company’s proposed language should help ease those concerns, Brand said.
So far, buyers have been hesitant. Among more than 1,000 prospective international buyers who glanced through the site’s marketing materials, which note the moratorium up front, only 5 percent inquire further, Speers said.
That’s a “disturbing(ly)” low amount of interest, he said. Speers has worked in real estate since 1984 with Kidder Matthews.
The 66-acre section of waterfront is the largest piece of Everett up for sale in decades. Whatever gets built on the site could reshape Everett’s appearance for years to come.
Councilwoman Gigi Burke is concerned about losing buyers, but supports the moratorium.
“We need to take the time on the process,” Burke said. “It really is a one-shot deal.”
The city has hired consultants to research the potential future uses for the prime waterfront site. It also wants the public’s input.
In surveys, people list jobs and waterfront access as top uses for the site.
The city cannot dictate what Kimberly-Clark does with its site, but it can modify the zoning to restrict what goes on it.
Last week, maps suggesting how to include public access to the waterfront were presented at the planning commission meeting for a public hearing. (More than 75 people came to the meeting.)
The consultants’ work sometimes is not realistic as to what the site can accommodate, Speers said.
Public access points at the Kimberly-Clark site, for example, may not be feasible, Speers said.
Industrial sites usually are closed off because they are dangerous. Plus, Naval Station Everett next door would probably nix letting the public get too close to its property.
“Public access is a design problem (for this site), but can be accomplished,” said John Owen, land use consultant with MAKERS Architecture and Urban Design.
The development mitigation process could have Kimberly-Clark put public access “off-site” on property it owns elsewhere along Port Gardner Bay.
Amy Reed, a laid-off Kimberly-Clark worker, was upset to hear buyers are shying away and questioned the idea of public access.
“Why is the city of Everett throwing money away on (public access mapping) scenarios?” Reed said. The mill shoreline is “just cement and drops into the water. There’s nothing great down there.”
The city needs family-wage jobs now, Reed said.
Kimberly-Clark has begun demolishing the buildings on the site and expects the work to be completed by spring 2013, Brand said.