Whether in favor or not, community members have until Monday, Feb. 24, to comment on specific aspects of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s application for the proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic.
A “Notice of Application” went in Sunday’s Peninsula Daily News, prompting a 20-day comment period for the outpatient clinic.
With the comment period ending on a Saturday (Feb. 22), comments are being accepted through the next Monday, city staff said.
Notifications also went on the city’s website, on the property and in the mail to neighbors within 300 feet of the South Ninth Avenue property.
The notice states the proposed clinic sits atop 3.3 acres on the northwest portion of an 18.19 parcel for a 16,720-square-foot medical clinic.
Tribe officials said the clinic will dispense daily doses of methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol for opioid-use disorder and provide wrap-around services such as primary care, dental and childcare services.
Sequim senior planner Tim Woolett said they’ve gotten a “big response” from the community in the number of comments received so far.
“Some of it is like casting vote, but this is not up for a vote,” he said.
“We look for input for things we need to look at as a land use permit. If it meets all the standards, then we have to allow it. A lot of times we don’t live in the neighborhood, so we might know certain aspects like flooding issues and such, which sometimes result in extra conditions.”
The application notice states, “Public comments should be as specific as possible and submitted to the city as early in the review of the application as possible.
“Any person has the right to comment on the application and receive a copy of the decision once made, and a party of record may appeal the decision once it’s made.”
Written comments will be accepted until 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, via drop-off at the Sequim Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St.; by mail to “City of Sequim, Department of Community Development (DCD), c/o Tim Woolett, 152 W. Cedar St., Sequim, WA, 98382,” and/or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A final decision on the application will be made by city community development director Barry Berezowsky within 120 days from Jan. 27, when the tribe’s application was deemed complete for consideration.
As of Tuesday, Feb. 4, no appeals have been made on the “Notice of Classification,” Woolett said.
An appeal could contest Berezowsky’s decision to put the application under the A-2 process.
Robert “Bob” Bilow, a Sequim resident outside city limits, continued to express his interest in appealing the “Notice of Classification” and that it should be under the C-2 process, with more public input and possible determination by Sequim city councilors.
Bilow said at the Jan. 27 city council meeting he disagreed that the MAT must be approved as a medical clinic, that the Americans with Disabilities Act was used inaccurately, and that case laws cited in Berezowsky’s “Notice of Classification” are not applicable.
Woolett said appeals aren’t heard until a decision on the application is made.
That includes appeals on the “Notice of Classification,” the decision on the application and the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Threshold determination.
The public has until Feb. 14 to file an appeal for the A-2 classification process, which includes paperwork and a $600 fee for a hearing examiner.
Community members have until 4 p.m. of the last day of the appeal period to mail or hand deliver the appeal to the Department of Community Development in the Civic Center.
After Feb. 14, the public has another 15 days to comment on the SEPA Threshold Determination, and once a decision is made, appeals can be made up to 21 days afterward on the project.
Updates on the application are posted online at www.sequimwa.gov/471/Current-Projects.
For more information on the process, call Berezowsky at 360-681-3435.
Jodi Wilke, chairman for Save Our Sequim (SOS), said the group plans to appeal aspects of the proposed clinic, but they’re still investigating specifics.
She said the group encourages people to read through the application documents on the city’s websites, and make comments they feel are pertinent to the proposed plan.
On Jan. 31, about 175 people participated in a meeting led by SOS in Macleay Hall in the Carlsborg area.
Wilke said her goal is to continue providing information to the public and that even people who live near the proposed clinic are unaware of it.
Wilke said she believes Berezowsky ignored a portion of the Sequim Municipal Code during the classification process and that it should be under “broad public interest,” requiring the application be considered under the C-2 application process rather than the A-2 process.
Berezowsky wrote in his decision that the city “historically reviewed medical clinics and offices under the A-2 administrative review process” and that diverting from that could be viewed as “intentional discrimination.”
He also wrote that “the theory that the degree of ‘public interest’ should be used to determine what type of process a permit should be subjected to falls apart when examined closer.”
City staff held the application at City Manager Charlie Bush’s direction from Jan. 10 to Jan. 23 so that city councilors could hold a work session to discuss the clinic. Berezowsky said he received approval to continue the application process during an executive session with city councilors on Jan. 23, and the “Notice of Classification” went out on Jan. 24 that the application would follow the A-2 process by which city staff would approve or reject the project, not the city council.
Andy Murphy, an attorney with the tribe’s law firm Miller Nash Graham & Dunn, wrote a letter on Jan. 22 suggesting litigation if the city didn’t continue the application.
“The Tribe, like all permit applicants, is entitled to fair treatment by the City in processing its application, which it expected to receive,” he wrote.
“Thus, the Tribe was surprised and disappointed to learn you directed City staff to halt processing the Tribe’s permit application. That decision lacks legal authority and is actionable. The City must process the application under the regulations in effect on January 10, regardless of subsequent changes in zoning or land use regulations.”
Murphy later writes that in state law “community displeasure cannot justify deviating from a city’s code or provide the basis to deny a permit. Instead, the law requires the City to apply the code as written to the Tribe’s application.”
He ended the letter with, “ … the Tribe sincerely hopes you will direct staff to resume processing the Healing Clinic building permit under the existing code as it is written. Indeed, that is what the law requires. But should the City continue to deprive the Healing Clinic application of fair treatment, the Tribe will be left with no recourse but litigation.”
Deputy Mayor Ted Miller spoke before public comments at the city council meeting on Jan. 27, saying the city council would have to follow the same law as city staff if they were to decide and declare it an A-2 process due to federal guidelines.
“If we allow a medical facility in any zone, we have to allow an MAT … From that point of view, if we find an MAT is a medical facility then it meets all the codes,” he said.
Miller added, “Regardless if it’s a C-2 process or an A-2 process, we are bound by the same rules. If it meets zoning requirements, building codes and so forth, we have to approve it.”
He said if it was deemed a C-2 process, which he called unlikely, the city council would be under the same restrictions as Berezowsky noted previously.
“We would be bound to approve it or end up in costly litigation that could impoverish City of Sequim residents,” Miller said.
“From a legal point-of-view, I conclude the city doesn’t really have a choice.”
He encouraged citizens to contact the tribe about their feelings, pro or con.
“I feel the applicant is severely underestimating the amount of opposition to the MAT,” Miller said. “If in favor, you should let the applicant know. City council is unable to affect anything with the MAT. (I’m) not saying I’m happy wit the state of affairs, but that’s the realistic event.”
Afterward, Bilow said he disagreed with everything Miller said, and that he’d file a legal brief about the comments.
For more information about the MAT application, contact the City of Sequim at 360-683-4908.
For more information about the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s project, visit jamestownhealingcampus.org.
Brent Simcosky, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s health services director, said people can contact him at email@example.com to open dialogue about how to make the clinic safe and successful.
For more information about arguments against the clinic, visit www.saveoursequim.org.
For more information about arguments for the clinic, visit www.facebook.com/groups/SequimStabilization.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.