A notice was published March 25 online, in print and on site signs stating that residents have until April 8 to comment on the environmental review of the proposed MAT clinic. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

A notice was published March 25 online, in print and on site signs stating that residents have until April 8 to comment on the environmental review of the proposed MAT clinic. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

MAT clinic’s environmental review open to comment

City Councilors hire hearing examiner for appeals

Locals are in lock down in the effort to curb the coronavirus spread, but work on the proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic continues with City of Sequim staff and city councilors making recent movement on the project.

Sequim Senior Planner Tim Woolett submitted the State Environmental Policy Act Mitigated Determination of Non-significance application for public comment on March 25.

Residents have until April 8 to comment on the environmental review of the approximate 16,700-square-foot medical clinic off South Ninth Avenue.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe would employ doctors to 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.

The project can be reviewed here: www.sequimwa.gov/471/Current-Projects.

Comments must be made by 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, by mail to: City of Sequim, Department of Community Development (DCD), c/o Tim Woolett, 152 West Cedar Street, Sequim, WA, 98382; or via email to twoolett@sequimwa.gov.

Conditions

In his report, Woolett said there could be some issues with construction dust and cultural artifacts that the tribe and its construction crew must mitigate by watering dusty areas at least three times a day during construction and consult with the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation to determine a need for a cultural survey prior to site-disturbing work.

Woolett also asked for mitigation for potential adverse impacts on public services, with some of them asking to:

• Create a monitoring and evaluation program overseen by a Community Advisory Committee made up of health professionals, elected officials, public safety officers and more. They must make contingency plan when monitoring or evaluation indicates expectation and standards are not being met.

• Hire a navigator to provide social service assistance to patients and other persons in need of Substance Use Disorder assistance and mental health assistance in the city. Patients who choose to leave the program are reported to the navigator for intervention and/or assistance in transitioning to another program.

• Ease clinic online by increasing patient slowly load over time per month over first year.

• Agree to a limited waiver of sovereign immunity to allow enforcement of the city’s nuisance ordinance if any portion of the subject property is placed into tribal trust.

• Accommodate patients only inside the facility with no loitering allowed.

• Hire full-time, on-site security.

Tribal officials have publicly stated some of the mitigation conditions are already in their plans, including in its Preliminary Medical Outpatient Clinic and Community Response Plan.

Police response

Concerns for safety have been noted by community members since the application was announced to the public last summer.

Woolett said he received comment from the Sequim Police Department about proposed mitigation conditions but not from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office or Clallam County Fire District 3.

Police Chief Sheri Crain concluded that that clinic’s impact will be “negligible” to local police. She wrote that staffing, security and its proposed layout could be the same or better than similar facilities to support the proposed patient load.

“However, as referenced in the ‘Community Response Plan,’ a review committee, and a Neighborhood Partnership Agreement would ease all parties’ concerns regarding potential impacts that are not visible at this time,” Crain wrote.

Since the tribe’s clinic on Fifth Avenue began offering Opioid Use Disorder treatment services in 2017, Sequim Police staff report the clinic averages about 25 calls per year from 2017-2019 and about 23 per year since it began operating from 2010-2019.

Police staff report calls were mostly false alarms but three reports each in 2017 and 2019, and two in 2018 of reported crimes, included theft, malicious mischief and found property.

Hearing examiner

After declining to hire a hearing examiner to hear appeals for the MAT clinic on March 9, Sequim city councilors opted to hire one on March 23 following city staff’s advice. Councilors made the decision after an executive session in a 4-0 vote, with Deputy Mayor Ted Miller and Troy Tenneson abstaining.

They agreed to enter into a contract with Phil Olbrechts and Associates to hear appeals of the project; currently with three on city staff’s decision to classify the project as an A-2 process where city staff review and approve the project. Olbrechts may also hear potential appeals for the SEPA threshold, and the application as a whole.

Miller said he intended to vote no but because he admires Olbrechts so he abstained.

Tenneson did not give a reason for his abstention, but on March 9 he said he felt that if the classification process was overturned from an A-2 process to a C-2 process the decision on approving the clinic would fall to the city council.

In phone interviews, Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush and Nelson-Gross said the city staff’s stance didn’t change that the city’s municipal code requires a hearing examiner for the A-2 process.

On March 20, Miller proposed drafting an ordinance about changing the hearing examiner process so that the City Council has more review authority.

Many city councilors agreed, but some said not now with the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic underway.

“I don’t disagree,” said councilor Dennis Smith. “There’s a whole lot of code that needs to be adjusted for current times. It just feels like now is not the time.”

Councilor Brandon Janisse agreed saying, “With COVID, it needs to take a back seat.”

Tenneson asked for a motion to pause permits with the exception of single-family residences for the next 90 days, but it was later withdrawn unanimously by councilors after the executive session.

Bush said in a phone interview that he reached out to the tribe to see if they wanted to delay the application process because of the coronavirus but they asked to continue.

City staff have 120 days, or until May 19, to issue a decision on the tribe’s application.

For more information about the City of Sequim, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4139.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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