<strong>Matthew Nash</strong>/Olympic Peninsula News Group
Construction on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic is anticipated to finish by January 2022, leaders say.

Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group Construction on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s medication-assisted treatment (MAT) clinic is anticipated to finish by January 2022, leaders say.

MAT clinic ruling appears to end litigation

Community groups and leaders call for kindness

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.”

Olbrechts dismissed five of six appeals against the MAT application, including SOS’s appeals, for a “lack of standing.”

The only appeal Olbrechts heard was the tribe’s challenge of the Mitigated Determination of Nonsignificance, in which the tribe challenged the city’s imposed conditions, saying they were not necessary or lawful. However, the city and tribe later agreed upon conditions such as a shuttle service to and from the facility and establishment of a Community Advisory Committee. Olbrechts approved the conditions on Dec. 21, 2020, along with adding a monitoring program for the clinic.

Standing

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.”

To do so, he said they must’ve shown a specific injury, a unique right or interest that is being violated in a manner special and different from the rights of other taxpayers.

He said evidence of prejudice or being adversely affected was not shown during calls for the tribe/city attorneys’ call for summary judgments, and when Olbrechts asked it to be presented.

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.”

Reaction

In weeks and months prior to COVID-19 restrictions, residents packed and overflowed city council and planning commission meetings at the Sequim Civic Center and two forums at the Guy Cole Event Center before any decision on the MAT application was made by city staff.

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 leaders continued: “Despite the disagreement between factions of the Sequim community for or against this project, it is our hope that we can embrace this common ground and make a concerted effort to bind the wounds that divide us. It is clear that we are not indivisible as long as factions work to separate our beloved community and marginalize those who simply wish to express their voice.

“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.”

He said there’s been a lot of name calling and anger toward the tribe and city staff.

“People have to understand that there’s been a lot of pain put under some people,” Simcosky said.

“I do welcome healing. I’m a person who doesn’t look in the past and hold a grudge.”

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.

After more than a year of engaging with the public, Simcosky said tribal staff understand people’s fears.

“The city did a good job of negotiating,” he said. “They got us to agree to a lot of things … and I think they did a good job serving the citizens.”

League’s view

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.

“The Tribe’s medication-assisted-treatment (MAT) facility is based on solid medical science, treating Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) as a brain disorder,” they wrote. “It is state-of-the-art health care on par with Johns Hopkins Medical Center. That kind of health care normally does not find its way to rural communities.”

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.”

Going forward

Completion of the MAT clinic is tentatively set for January 2022, Simcosky said.

The project is about six months behind on construction because of the pandemic and court appeals, he said.

“Six months is not the end of the world,” he said. “We’re looking at the long picture.”

“People forget that opioid use has gone up and overdoses have gone up and suicides have gone up nationally and locally.”

Simcosky said interest in the tribe’s opioid treatment has gone up significantly in the last six months.

________

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]

SOS press release

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