Sequim city staff must complete an application for a medication-assisted treatment clinic, pictured in this artist’s rendering, by May 26. (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe)

Sequim city staff must complete an application for a medication-assisted treatment clinic, pictured in this artist’s rendering, by May 26. (Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe)

MAT environmental impact comment period ends

City must complete application by May 26

SEQUIM — As the process for the application for a proposed medication-assisted treatment clinic in Sequim approaches a May 26 deadline, Sequim city staff are almost done with another milestone.

Comments closed April 8 for the state Environmental Policy Act’s Mitigated Determination of Non-significance (MDNS) application for the proposed 16,700-square-foot medical facility off South Ninth Avenue, where clients who have volunteered for treatment for opioid-use disorder would be given daily doses of Suboxone, Vivitrol or methadone as well as wrap-around services such as primary care, dental and childcare services.

Sequim Senior Planner Tim Woolett said he received 64 comments on the project’s environmental review, and he asked Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s architect, Suzanne Pontecorvo of Rice Fergus Miller Architecture, to clarify some elements by Sunday.

Some of those clarifications include further explanation for groundwater and stormwater, and regulatory controls for hazardous materials (i.e. blood, needles, etc.).

Woolett said once the clarifications are made, a decision could be declared for the MDNS as soon as the end of the month.

If there was a sizable change in the environmental proposal, he said the city could reissue the MDNS, but he said the clarifications aren’t significant enough for that.

Once a decision is made, residents will have 21 days to appeal the MDNS, which will be heard by a hearing examiner after the application is completed.

Sequim City Council members agreed March 23 to hire Phil Olbrechts of Olbrechts and Associates as hearing examiner for the project.

He will consider three appeals on city staff’s decision to classify the project as an A-2 process in which city staff review and approve the project opposed to a city council-made decision.

Olbrechts may also hear potential appeals for the MDNS, and on the application once completed.

Each appeal requires paperwork and a $600 fee to the hearing examiner.

Citizen request

Some citizens and the community group Save Our Sequim (SOS) asked city staff to delay and/or extend comment for the project for various reasons, including limitations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an April 6 email to city staff, SOS chair Jodi Wilke asked for two more weeks to comment on the MDNS.

She said expert consultants aren’t available during the pandemic, computer access is out of reach for many elderly residents, the MDNS document is 349 pages long and requires more time, and city staff aren’t available in person to non-technical residents.

“If I thought your staff would consider it, I would certainly ask that progress on this project be suspended during the COVID-19 epidemic and resumed when public services are open again,” Wilke wrote.

“But Sequim Attorney Kristina Gross-Nelson intervened in favor of the developer again and would not consider this remedy to the public.”

The next day, Barry Berezowsky, the city’s director of community development, replied: “Unfortunately, I find no SEPA authority upon which the City can unilaterally extend the statutorily defined comment period for a Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance (MDNS).”

City staff said the tribe can consent to delay the permit processing, but they opted to proceed with processing the application.

Tribe opts to continue

In late March, City Manager Charlie Bush said he spoke with Ron Allen, Jamestown’s tribal chairman, and tribe officials are not open to a COVID-19 delay in processing applications or appeals.

Bush said he and Allen discussed a 90-day delay, which the tribe opted not to do.

“With DCD staff handling the permit working from home, we have the capacity to finish processing the permit,” Bush wrote in a staff email.

“We will need to do some additional planning regarding how we can execute the appeal hearing virtually, if needed, depending upon orders and limitations at that time.”

In a phone interview, Allen said he believes the tribe’s staff has complied with the city’s process and “gone through extensive measures to communicate with the public and the city.”

“I don’t think it needs to be delayed further,” he said.

“We’re concerned that delaying it would put the project into the late fall, early winter and would cause higher construction costs.”

However, Allen said he’s confident for a positive response from the hearing examiner and that construction could begin in late summer, if COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

With a hearing examiner set, Allen said the public can provide more comments through that process.

“That does not require any delay,” he said.

Allen said he felt those against the clinic and/or its location have delayed the process already through the city council.

“We do not need further opportunities to politicize it,” he said.

“We do not agree it’s political. I firmly feel it is a positive project and a healthcare issue that is very prevalent with the community, and we believe that all the healthcare professionals in the community agree with us. We’re sticking with the professionals and what is the solution for this issue.”

Woolett said there will be no further comment periods on the MAT application until appeals go to the hearing examiner.

He said his staff report is due no later than May 26, with Berezowsky in charge of its consideration for approval, denial and/or amendments.

The project can be reviewed at sequimwa.gov/471/Current-Projects.

________

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Sequim Gazette. Reach him at [email protected].

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