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Marie’s Whirlwind Tour Of The GP Mill Site

I attended the open air walk and discussion out on the Georgia Pacific Mill site to hear Fort Bragg’s Development Director Marie Jones discourse on the project of "daylighting" the creeks. It was a brisk California foggy day, with a light wind and light rain falling.

The land out there is tumbled from its industrial convulsion. Huge chunks of concrete and rumpled hills are filled between with water. It is toxic water laced with carcinogenic dioxin, about to be cleaned up, we are told.

Daylighting creeks is like apple pie. As an issue, there is not much room for discussion. Who would be against daylighting creeks? The Underground Water Appreciation Coalition?

A few observations occurred to me.

The daylighting proposal is not occurring in a vacuum. A little over a month ago we were bombed with a surprise presentation by the State’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), They told the city and the council there was no end in sight for a complete cleanup and suggested an improbable compromise. Then, within the last month, the City Manager and her Development Director, Marie Jones, launched a radical alteration in the complex process of rezoning on which city hall has labored intermittently for fifteen years.

This was new, we were told. Currently the GP mill site is zoned timber-industrial. Any use of the land other than for a timber mill requires rezoning and approval of the change by the Coastal Commission. The city is precipitously moving to rezone in a way never discussed before and contrary to all the stated criteria in our existing coastal plan.

At the last two City Council meetings everyone was amazed to learn that as many as five clients may be in contract with GP awaiting our zoning decisions.

One certainly is.

Now, even more surprises. Suddenly daylighting the creeks is on the agenda. The development director made little posters about the creeks and then took locals in groups out on the site and let them smell the sea air and watch the deer waddle around in the dioxins. In a rambling disjointed talk to fifteen, slightly damp, deeply credulous locals, Ms. Jones provided fragmentary information and gracefully (more or less) obscured the important facts.

At one point, for example, and quite casually as we strolled along, Marie pointed out that the land that we were walking on belonged to Georgia Pacific, and that there would be no daylighting if they did not agree to sell the land across which which runeth ancient creeks we propose to daylight.

One could not help but wonder, Was the city that certain of GP approval?

We know that GP is in contract with up to five prospective purchasers. We know that GP wants a deal with them. We know that deal requires a rezoning which only the city can do. And we know that daylighting requires the sale of the land from GP to the city.

There is nothing wrong with a deal if made openly and publicly. In point of fact there have been a lot of deals done between the city and the Koch brothers through their GP clones over the years. Property changes hands out there fast and silently. No one up to now has been reporting on those semi-incestuous land deals. It is our tradition in Fort Bragg that we just trust our development director.

But it is hard not to notice that moving forward on daylighting the creeks at the astronomical cost of giving the GP folks the right to cut the property up and sell it off piecemeal might work for GP. It would probably work for George Reinhardt who has lowered his ambitions in scale during the decades he has been working on the mill site non-project . If he could just get those damn creeks daylighted, a piecemeal division of the site and a resulting industrial park is perhaps not asking too much.

Best of all, this is an arrangement that has enough angles to work for city hall. The only people who lose are those many souls who once understood that the site is a unique resource and an irreplaceable treasure, who therefore went forth and voted and talked together and dreamed and waited for fifteen years.

They lose.

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