SEQUIM — More than a year and a half after the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic project was announced, litigation appears to be over.
Judge Brent Basden of Clallam County Superior Court dismissed the Save Our Sequim (SOS) Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) appeal of the clinic’s application, writing last Wednesday that the “court concludes that SOS does not have standing to file this LUPA petition.”
The SOS board of directors issued a statement saying that the ruling “has capped the efforts of SOS by finding that the group, which speaks for a large contingent of our community, does not have legal standing to present its arguments in Superior Court.”
They urged unity as did a Jamestown S’Klallam tribal official and a member of the Sequim Good Governance League.
Basden’s decision follows appeals of an Oct. 8, 2020, Interlocutory Order from City of Sequim-appointed hearing examiner Phil Olbrechts, ruling that SOS, Jon Gibson, owner of Parkwood Manufactured Housing Community, and Robert Bilow of Sequim lacked standing for their appeals.
Basden wrote that SOS “ … has not shown that it ‘has (been) prejudiced or is likely to be prejudiced by the decision, and hence is not an aggrieved or adversely affected party.”
Formed in July 2019, SOS leaders said they opposed the MAT clinic’s location in Sequim’s retail core without their knowledge, and they sought a new review of the application with further public input.
A building permit was issued by city staff on June 29 for the 16,806-square-foot facility off South Ninth Avenue, where doctors would dispense daily doses of methadone, Suboxone and Vivitrol for patients with opioid-use disorder while offering wrap-around services.
Construction began in November. It is expected to open next January.
“We’re feeling very good and relieved,” said Brent Simcosky, the tribe’s health services director, in a phone interview about Basden’s decision.
“We feel that everything was done properly by Jamestown and Sequim city staff. The hearing examiner said this, and the judge reaffirmed that.”
City staff issued in a statement following last week’s decision, noting, “We appreciate the judge’s decision and hope this will put the matter behind us.”
Basden recognized SOS’s 2,600 members, writing that, “there is no doubt that a large number of individuals in the Sequim community support and advocate for the position that (the) Tribe’s clinic should not be located as planned.”
He added that “they do not oppose placement in another location, although much of the public comments as to why the current placement is inappropriate would not be alleviated by a different placement within the Sequim community.”
According to testimony and briefs, Basden felt there was “no competent evidence … by an individual who attests to be a member of SOS and claims some particularized prejudice which would qualify him or her to be considered an aggrieved or adversely affected party.”
Basden wrote, “(SOS must show) that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Bare assertions are not sufficient — there must be actual evidence.”
Basden wrote that SOS relies upon generalized comments and concerns such as loitering, drug use and littering and more as a result of the facility going in, and that “unsworn testimony in a public hearing, or arguments or statements contained in news reports, about hypothetical or conjectural harm, is not competent testimony.”
Following Basden’s decision, community groups and leaders expressed an interest in coming together after months of online and public debate.
“We really do want to see our community pull back together,” SOS chair Jodi Wilke said in a phone interview. “We want to encapsulate that we want to be a positive influence on the community.”
In its press release, SOS’s board of directors called upon city leaders to remedy “certain ambiguities in our land use codes … ”
“SOS renounces any ongoing effort to further divide us — whether socially, politically, or philosophically.”
They encouraged residents to embrace the city’s proclamation of 2021 as a “Year of Kindness.”
As for SOS’s future, Wilke said board members are considering their next options, but it’s “too early to tell” what that entails.
Simcosky said he welcomes the opportunity to unify and be kind to one another because it’s “been a departure from what it’s been the last year.”
Simcosky said to unify, he’s willing to listen, but people all must be able to trust one another.
“If I tell someone that the sheriff said our facility is going to be safe, they can’t reply asking, ‘How much did you pay him to say that?’ Not everything is a conspiracy,” he said.
Simcosky said coming together is important, particularly in the health of the community, such as with the tribe helping with COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We couldn’t do that by ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got the fire department and the city, Community Emergency Response Team, 60-plus volunteers, the Methodist church and more. It’s been a wonderful collaboration.”
He said he hopes “people keep an open mind and trust.”
“The most disappointing thing to the tribe is that, in all the good things they’ve done in health care, why would it do anything to hurt the lands?” Simcosky said.
The Sequim Good Governance League, a group that formed in-part to attempt to see outgoing city manager Charlie Bush retained, said in a press release on the court’s decision that it “welcomes the end of divisiveness.”
League leaders, some of whom publicly supported the clinic, wrote they believe Basden’s decision showed city staff “followed the law and regulations” and was transparent.
League leaders wrote it was unfortunate the facility became so divisive.
“Vulnerable groups of people were stigmatized. The Tribe was attacked as being greedy and insensitive to the well-being of Sequim,” they wrote.
“It is our neighbors, members of our community, who struggle with drug addiction, housing insecurity, income insecurity, and mental fragility. Those problems are neither new nor unique to Sequim. They are human struggles.
“It is time to put aside the divisiveness. A state-of-the-art medical facility will not ruin Sequim. Divisiveness and stigmatization of others will.”
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected]