Port Angeles drug, alcohol treatment center gets permit from Planning Commission; residential facility could be completed in September

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles could have the only residential drug and alcohol treatment clinic on the North Olympic Peninsula as early as September after city planning commissioners approved a permit needed for the facility to open.

They voted Wednesday night 6-0, with commissioner Tim Boyle absent, to approve a conditional-use permit for the clinic, which will inhabit the former site of an adult care home at 825 E. Fifth St.

The building will house a 16-bed inpatient substance abuse clinic, which would open first, with a 16-bed detoxification center slated to open later in the same building once funding is secured, said Sally Beaven, director of Speciality Services, which will run the clinic.

Beaven said the facility could be ready to receive patients, who would come on a voluntary basis following referrals from local outpatient treatment centers, as soon as September if ongoing interior renovations go according to schedule.

“I was really pleased that everything went through and they supported us and gave us an opportunity,” Beaven said.

The facility would sit at the intersection of Fifth and Race streets, two blocks southwest of Civic Field and Erickson Playfield.

Sue Roberds, city planning manager, said the permit can be appealed within 14 days of the Planning Commission approving the application.

The appeal must be based on facts considered incorrect in the application, she said, not on an opinion of the project.

The commissioners’ vote came after the second part of a two-meeting public hearing on the permit during which both supporters and opponents of the clinic spoke.

“We need this. I guarantee you we need it. I just say stick it where the commercial area is,” said resident Bruce O’Rourke, who lives near the proposed clinic.

O’Rourke said he also felt the city and the Planning Commission did not do a good enough job seeking comment from neighbors on the clinic application.

Caroline Putman, a neighbor of O’Rourke’s, echoed his concern and said she also was worried the clinic would lower property values.

“We need it, definitely, but not in my neighborhood or with all those children and facilities around there,” she said.

O’Rourke and Putman were two of three residents who spoke against the clinic Wednesday night.

Four spoke in favor.

One proponent was John DeBoer, who said the facility will fill a great need in the community.

“I think they’ll turn out to be good neighbors in the long run,” he said.

Resident Barbara Meyer, who has worked in the treatment field for 30 years, said she helped open a similar clinic in Sedona, Ariz., in the 1980s that initially concerned neighbors.

Within a year, they had a different attitude about it, Meyer said.

“They felt the community was safer,” she said.

Planning commissioners approved the permit application with five conditions: three recommended by city staff and two added by commissioners Wednesday night.

The two added by commissioners are that the clinic must prioritize clients from Clallam County, which Beaven said has been the plan since the clinic was first proposed, and it must add a solid 6-foot-tall fence around an enclosed courtyard that opens on the north side of the building.

The courtyard is currently enclosed by a 3-foot-high fence with shrubbery in place.

“I think the fence is a great idea,” Beaven said.

The other three conditions are that the applicant must acquire all other necessary permits and certifications, the conditional-use permit will be reviewed in a year, and a minimum of 15 off-street parking spaces must be provided for clinic staff and visitors.

“There’s really no condition we can put to have it somewhere else,” Planning Commission chair Scott Headrick said Wednesday.

“We’re trying to do the best that we can with what’s written in our code and what’s allowed.”

Beaven said the required number of parking spaces will be provided.

Beaven said she now needs certification for the treatment program from the state Department of Social and Health Services’ division of behavioral health and recovery.

Certification for the building itself also is needed from the state Department of Health, she added.

The clinic would be staffed 24 hours a day, Beaven has said, and clients would not be allowed to leave the facility without an escort.

Beaven was joined at the Wednesday meeting by Craig Phillips, business manager and owner of Spokane-based American Behavioral Health Systems, which started Specialty Services as an independent pilot project.

Phillips has said a $450,000 grant from the state Department of Social and Health Services was used to purchase the Fifth Street building and is funding interior renovations.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 26. 2014 6:42PM
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