Consensus among attendees of the latest Sequim City Council meeting is that they don’t want a Medication-Assisted Treatment Center coming into Sequim.
As many as 500 people — many with a group called Save Our Sequim — packed the Guy Cole Event Center Monday night for a special city council meeting, asking questions and sharing concerns about the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed facility near Costco.
Nearly 50 people spoke to city councilors with concerns ranging from social well-being to impact on senior citizens and children, personal stories of addiction and its impact on other communities to general concerns about crime and safety.
Karen Willcutt, who lives in Sequim but outside city limits, told city councilors, “Drug dealers follow drug addicts. Drug addicts follow other drug addicts.
“There are plenty of other ways to spend grant money (the tribe received for the facility),” Willcutt said. “We don’t need this huge thing. This is about profit. We’re begging you to stop this before it gets started.”
City staff opened the meeting with discussions about the city’s procedures for handling a potential center like the tribe that’s proposed at a cost of $20 million on 19.5 acres.
City Manager Charlie Bush told the crowd July 29 that he met with tribal chairman Ron Allen last week and that the tribe is looking to acquire additional land west of the proposed acreage for street access to River Road.
Brent Simcosky, director of Health Services for the Tribe, confirmed this, Bush said, and that the tribe is “working to secure an option on additional land next to the potential phase 1 and phase 2 projects for possible access to River Road.”
The second phase of the tribe’s proposed project includes an in-patient behavioral health facility.
Bush said, “it is unusual for us to be discussing a process a project may follow prior to an application, or even a pre-application meeting.”
“We are all speculating at this point until something arrives in writing from an applicant,” Bush said. “We had been expecting an application to follow an A1 or A2 process, based upon what the tribe had previously told us about their project. With this new information about possible additional development, their application may result in a process that involves a conditional use or special use permit.”
As previously announced, city councilors are not involved in the process for the proposed facility. Under current guidelines, it would be under staff review because it falls under the city’s acceptable uses in the city’s Economic Opportunity Zone. If the city were to classify it differently, then it could go before the city planning commission for review and if appealed before the Clallam County Hearing Examiner.
Bush said city staff plan to ask questions that many residents are too at a planned 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8 meeting hosted by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe at the Guy Cole Event Center, 202 N. Blake Ave.
It was moved from Blyn, Simcosky said, because of size limitations.
Two speakers, including Save Our Sequim chair Jodi Wilke, asked city councilors to impose a moratorium on the property for further requests for no less than one year for “adequate analysis, deliberation, and public discussion or influence on the project.”
Wilke also asked for an Environmental Impact Study be required along with striking out the city’s resolution about the Economic Opportunity Zone and reinstate the city’s previous sub-area plan to protect the public interests.
She listed more than 30 concerns about the facility.
Wendy Goldberg, a Sequim resident who lives outside city limits, said many people at the meeting don’t feel the Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) center is an ordinary clinic, such as a foot clinic or an eye clinic. She asked how the city could reclassify the MAT clinic from automatic permitting under its current A2 status to a drug treatment center that would require a conditional use permit.
Goldberg also asked how the second phase of the plan would affect phase 1’s State Environmental Policy Act, SEPA, process.
Jerene Broker of Sequim asked where those who drop out of the program will go.
“As a mother, fellow citizen of Sequim, and a business owner, I want that answered before considering (the MAT facility),” she said.
“They aren’t going to go home. They’re not going to go back in their little bus. I don’t want it to be life-threatening to go to Costco.”
Brody Broker said in his years of real estate, he’s never leased a medical clinic that was 15,000 square feet like the propose facility.
“The scope of it far exceeds that anything that could serve our community,” he said.
Broker asked councilors if a regional medical center is still a clinic.
“Is a regional medical center still a clinic? If it’s going to serve the entire region, larger than any other clinic in town, is that still a clinic? Or is that a regional?” he asked. “I believe the whole thing should come under conditional use.”
Inga Able, a Sequim-area county resident, said she called the area’s clinics offering methadone and other drug treatments for addiction and they were all accepting patients.
“I do not believe a MAT clinic is a solution,” she said. “I don’t see with those facilities being there, we don’t have any additional need for a MAT facility on the peninsula.”
Val Shaw, a city resident, said her farm is next to the proposed site and that she’s concerned about more impact of development and on her ability to farm.
Shaw said in the last 18 months they’ve had Sequim Police Department respond four times for problems of theft to burglary to drug issues.
“We have it posted that it’s private property. How often is this going to have to happen?” she asked.
Shaw said her family has been on the property since the 1890s, and that the facility would destroy their way of life.
She said Costco’s construction made three acres of property unusable.
“If this is open 24 hours a week, how are we going to keep the farm going?” Shaw asked.
Ed Watson of Dungeness said there aren’t any guarantees that the facility won’t lead to more crime.
He asked for the city to look into increasing the number of police officers, EMTs and other first responders and hosting an emergency room before allowing a MAT clinic.
“I came here to retire here in a safety,” he said. “Obviously there’s a need for MAT clinics. Where does their need for care and my need for safety begin?”
Tom Fenner, a Sequim city resident, said he’s concerned for senior citizens in the community if a facility were to come in.
“One of the reasons we have a lot of opioids is because we have a lot of assisted living facilities,” he said. “Don’t you know these addicts are going to know these assisted living facilities are going to have opioids in there? They are going to attack, and I mean attack, to get their drugs.”
Fenner said seniors likely cannot protect themselves against violence.
“Can you guarantee me and the families of these people who get attacked, ‘I’m sorry I allowed that to go in?’” he said. “At that point in time, God help you, because we’re not going to.”
Cindy Schmidt, a city resident, said she doesn’t want to feel afraid in Sequim after moving from the Seattle area.
“This is heaven,” she said.
Her husband continues to work in Seattle, she said, and sees impacts of similar facilities daily.
“We don’t want that here,” Schmidt said. “Whose pockets have been padded for this freaking bad deal?”
Bill Walsh, a Sequim-area county resident, said, “Relying on big pharma for the treatment of the addiction they created seems like an oxymoron.”
He said those trying kick drugs make it only on abstinence.
“We don’t need this stuff in Sequim,” he said.
A few speakers shared their support for the facility including Sandy Goodwick of Agnew. She encouraged people and groups dealing with addiction be involved with the discussions of the facility.
She asked for leadership to speak about why it would and wouldn’t work, too.
“This isn’t politics; this is real life,” Goodwick said. “These are your family members, your neighbors, your coworkers,” she said.
“If your goal is to not have a MAT center, then it starts with owning your stigma.”
The meeting concluded without council discussion.
Mayor Dennis Smith said, “We have heard what we thought we would hear and more.”
“We have lots of things to do,” he said. “We’ve been challenged, certainly, and we’ll deal with it as we can.”
Bush said in the coming week, city staff will discuss next steps regarding suggestions such as a moratorium on development and other options.
City staff said all questions asked on Monday will be submitted to the tribe, and a “frequently asked question” page will be put up on the city’s website soon at www.sequimwa.gov.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.