As the proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic’s application in Sequim approaches a May 26 completion deadline, City of Sequim staff are almost done with another timeline milestone.
Comments closed on April 8 for the State Environmental Policy Act’s Mitigated Determination of Non-significance (MDNS) application for the proposed 16,700-square-foot medical facility off South Ninth Avenue. Inside, doctors would dispense daily doses of methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol for patients with opioid-use disorder and provide wrap-around services such as primary care, dental and childcare services.
City of Sequim senior planner Tim Woolett said he received 64 comments on the project’s environmental review, and he asked Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s architect Suzanne Pontecorvo with Rice Fergus Miller Architecture to clarify some elements by April 26.
Some of those clarifications include further explanation for groundwater and stormwater, and regulatory controls for hazardous materials (i.e. blood, needles, etc.).
Woolett said once the clarifications are made, a decision could be declared for the MDNS as soon as the end of the month.
If there was a sizable change in the environmental proposal, he said the city could reissue the MDNS, but said he feels the clarifications aren’t significant enough for that.
Once a decision is made, residents have 21 days to appeal the MDNS, which will be heard by a hearing examiner after the application is completed.
Sequim City Councilors agreed on March 23 to hire Phil Olbrechts and Associates as hearing examiner for the project.
He will consider three appeals on city staff’s decision to classify the project as an A-2 process in which city staff review and approve the project opposed to a city council-made decision.
Olbrechts may also hear potential appeals for the MDNS, and the application once completed.
Each appeal requires paperwork and a $600 fee to the hearing examiner.
Some citizens and the community group Save Our Sequim (SOS) asked city staff to delay and/or extend comment for the project for various reasons, including limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an April 6 email to city staff, SOS chair Jodi Wilke asked for two more weeks to comment on the MDNS.
Some of her reasons include: expert consultants aren’t available during the pandemic; computer access is out of reach for many elderly residents; the MDNS document is 349 pages and requires more time, and city staff aren’t available in-person to non-technical residents.
“If I thought your staff would consider it, I would certainly ask that progress on this project be suspended during the COVID-19 epidemic and resumed when public services are open again,” Wilke wrote.
“But Sequim Attorney Kristina Gross-Nelson intervened in favor of the developer again and would not consider this remedy to the public.”
The next day, Barry Berezowsky, the city’s director of community development, replied, “Unfortunately, I find no SEPA authority upon which the City can unilaterally extend the statutorily defined comment period for a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS).”
City staff said the tribe can consent to delay the permit processing but they opted to proceed with processing the application.
In late March, City Manager Charlie Bush said he spoke with Jamestown’s Tribal Chairman W. Ron Allen and that tribe officials are not open to a COVID-19 delay in processing applications or appeals.
Bush said he and Allen discussed a 90-day delay, which the tribe opted not to do.
“With DCD staff handling the permit working from home, we have the capacity to finish processing the permit,” Bush wrote in a staff email.
“We will need to do some additional planning regarding how we can execute the appeal hearing virtually, if needed, depending upon orders and limitations at that time.”
In a phone interview, Allen said he believes the tribe’s staff has complied with the city’s process and “gone through extensive measures to communicate with the public and the city.”
“I don’t think it needs to be delayed further,” he said.
“We’re concerned that delaying it would put the project into the late fall, early winter and would cause higher construction costs.”
However, Allen said he’s confident for a positive response from the hearing examiner and that construction could begin this late summer, if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
With a hearing examiner set, Allen said the public can provide more comments through that process.
“That does not require any delay,” he said.
Allen said he felt those against the clinic and/or its location have delayed the process already through the city council.
“We do not need further opportunities to politicize it,” he said.
“We do not agree it’s political. I firmly feel it is a positive project and a healthcare issue that is very prevalent with the community, and we believe that all the healthcare professionals in the community agree with us. We’re sticking with the professionals and what is the solution for this issue.”
Under the city’s Emergency Orders during the pandemic, the Department of Community Development continues to accept and process permits; however, they are only accepted via standard mail or email.
Nelson-Gross said in an email that the city has the “ability to continue to work remotely on many of our permits, including building permits,” and those, unlike a subdivision application don’t “require the same level of public engagement and doesn’t pose a violation of the Governor’s orders.”
Woolett said there will be no further comment periods on the MAT application until appeals go to the hearing examiner.
He said his staff report is due no later than May 26, with Berezowsky in charge of its consideration for approval, denial and/or amendments.
The project can be reviewed here: www.sequimwa.gov/471/Current-Projects.
For more information about the City of Sequim, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.