No date set for MAT’s hearing examiner review

Injunction hearing in Clallam Superior Court set for June 19

A date for a hearing examiner to begin reviewing multiple appeals for the proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility has yet to be determined, City of Sequim staff say.

However, an injunction hearing filed by Save Our Sequim and Jon Gibson in Clallam County Superior Court on June 19 could stop the process indefinitely, if successful.

If the process were to go forward unhindered, Phil Olbrechts — the city’s new hearing examiner — would consider six appeals to elements and/or the entirety of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed 16,806-square-foot medical facility application.

The appeal process for the application closed Friday, June 5, with three appeals coming in against the application from Save Our Sequim, and Gibson, owner of Parkwood Manufactured Housing Community.

The tribe also filed an appeal of its own against three city-required conditions for the project’s Mitigated Determination of Non-significance (MDNS) environmental review.

Earlier in the application process, three appeals were filed against city staff’s decision to classify the project as an A-2 process in which city staff — specifically, Barry Berezowsky, Sequim community development director — review and approve the project, as opposed to a city council-made (C-2 process) decision.

Berezowsky approved the project on May 15, leading to the final appeal process.

Hearings/court appearance

In a phone interview, Berezowsky said that once a date is made with Olbrechts, they’ll hold a pre-hearing conference to see if the parties can come to some mediation prior to a hearing and potential litigation.

If not, the city will set a schedule for hearings.

Berezowsky said the first thing appeal Olbrechts would consider is the classification process of bringing the application to a staff decision.

“If (opponents) are successful, then it’ll go back to the beginning of the process, and we’ll have to take it step-by-step,” he said.

Appeals may be heard, depending on what happens in court.

SOS and Gibson filed a joint injunction on May 5 in Clallam County Superior Court seeking multiple declarations, such as that the process should be under a quasi-judicial, C-2 decision.

Gibson said they ask that the city’s decision under its Municipal Code 20 be put on a temporary hold so their legal representation can argue the constitutionality of the municipal ordinances.

“The best outcome (for us) would be the court granting an injunction that puts a pause on everything until a ruling is issued determining if the statute is constitutional at a later point,” he said.

Jodi Wilke, chairman of Save Our Sequim, said the clinic going in “is not a done deal.”

“It’s absolutely not,” she said. “There are a lot of people who think it is.”

Appeals

In its appeal, the tribe’s lawyer Andy Murphy of Miller Nash Graham & Dunn stated that three of the city’s conditions do not fall under State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) regulations.

Some of the tribe’s multiple complaints state there is no evidence the clinic will cause adverse environmental impacts to public services, that community concern is not an environmental impact, and the city’s land use authority doesn’t include clinic operations.

Murphy wrote that the city’s third condition halts clinical operations and the clinic is not free to deviate from the “procedures and recommendations” in the Community Response Plan.

“The City should leave regulating clinics to those bodies with expertise in it,” Murphy writes.

He adds the tribe is entitled to have its permits processed in the same manner as any other applicant and that they aren’t aware of any basis that allows a city to require a tribe to forfeit its sovereign immunity, even in a limited capacity, or reimburse a city for “lost tax revenue” in order to receive a permit particularly when the use is permitted with no environmental impact.

SOS attorney Michael A. Spence of Helsell Fetterman stated that the group seeks the hearing examiner to appeal multiple elements, such as to strike the A-2 process as invalid and reprocess the application as a C-2 permitting process.

Other objections include that the proposed facility is not permitted in the River Road Economic Opportunity Area, as it will contain a “wide range of addiction treatment services.”

Spence added that the tribe’s proposed second phase includes a 16-bed inpatient facility and that the city has known about it but does not prohibit it in the opportunity area.

Tribal officials said the second phase is not in their plans right now.

SOS also contests that the project is an “Essential Public Facility,” and requires city council approval of Essential Public Facilities and Special Property Use permits.

Gibson’s attorney, Michael McLaughlin of McMahon Law Group, seeks similar action as SOS — to strike the A-2 process and redo the application as a C-2 application review process, find the project to be an Essential Public Facility and that it fails to qualify under the city’s opportunity area.

Gibson said “city staff paid no attention to the concerns of its people and to represent the will and citizens of Sequim.”

“The evidence shows the city staff wanted this project from day one,” he said.

“Staff is ignoring the will of the people. Something stinks here big time.”

Wilke said the appeals and lawsuit is beneficial to the whole Sequim community because it impacts anyone looking to build in the city.

“There’s a lot of things wrong with the (city) code,” she said.

“The city staff knows this. They’ve been putting some efforts into fixing them but not fast enough.

Whether it was intentional or not I dunno, but people’s rights are being denied.”

She added that waiting 120 days through the application process to appeal the application’s determination process is “time lost” and everyone “could have done other things that are more productive.”

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