SEQUIM — Sequim City Council members voted down a temporary moratorium that would have frozen future permits — and halted the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s proposed medication-assisted treatment (MAT) facility — within the city’s Economic Opportunity Areas.
Council member Ted Miller proposed a three-month moratorium Monday night in a work session. It would have directed city staff to review zoning requirements for the Economic Opportunity Areas and the allowed uses in the zoned areas to see if any of them could require a conditional use permit.
“At the same time we’ve got to structure it so it’s not so discriminatory it couldn’t survive a court challenge,” Miller said.
Council members voted down the moratorium 4-3, with Mayor Dennis Smith and council members Bob Lake, Candace Pratt and Jennifer States opposed to the measure.
States said she opposed a broad permit ban because it could dissuade potential grant opportunities and developers from bringing jobs to Sequim.
“I would be hesitant to move forward with a moratorium,” States said. “It sends a very bad signal to the state level and financial community that’s currently looking at the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone [a program offering tax incentives to under-served communities].”
Pratt agreed, saying it sets “a dangerous precedent.”
Miller said his intent for the moratorium wasn’t intended as “hostile” to development but so that the city could review the Economic Opportunity Areas for potential changes.
“If we don’t do this, there’s nothing else the City Council can do,” he said.
Barry Berezowksy, Sequim director of community development, said to enact a moratorium the city must declare “some kind of emergency” and with many of the 60-plus allowed uses in an Economic Opportunity Zone permitted elsewhere in the city it’d be difficult to defend the purpose.
City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross cited other cities that went through or are in litigation over moratoriums and that there could be a large court costs and settlements.
“There’s a better chance than 50/50 that you’d still have the [MAT] facility in place when it’s all said and done,” she said.
Council member William Armacost said “the public outcry has been evident” and he wants a better look at the potential impact of the MAT facility.
“We’re at a point that this is too much to swallow,” he said.
Pratt read some information from the tribe’s “Healing Campus Fact Sheet,” noting that “patients will receive daily medications for their opioid use disorder and receive wrap-around services of primary care, dental, individual and group counseling, childcare and transportation if needed.”
She said at the tribe’s forum last Thursday, people in treatment with suboxone spoke about how it’s changed their lives.
“They’re functioning adults because of it; don’t just dismiss it,” Pratt said. “It’s not that it can’t help people. I don’t think you serve all the constituents here saying it’s not going to help.”
Armacost said he believes there are success stories on the treatment drugs offered by the potential facility, but that he questions the facility’s potential location. He worries with it coming in, people’s quality of life in Sequim is “going to have a dramatic change.”
“Wherever you have drug addicts, you have drug dealers trailing, and that’s the cartel,” Armacost said.
States said Sequim presently have residents who wrestle with drug addiction.
“The fear of ‘If you build it, they will come’ doesn’t resonate with me when I know there are people here now struggling and needing these services,” she said.
Tribal representatives have said the first phase of its Healing Campus includes a 15,000-square-foot MAT facility for up to about 250 patients. The second phase consists of a 16-bed psychiatric treatment hospital.
This discussion carried over from the city council’s MAT forum July 29 where Smith said he accidentally adjourned the meeting before council members could hold a planned discussion.
Tribal officials have not given a date for when they plan to submit an application or the MAT facility to the city of Sequim.
A new section on the city website answers questions from the July 29 meeting about the proposed Medication-Assisted Treatment Center. It is www.sequimwa.gov/866/Medication-Assisted-Treatment-MAT-Center.
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] gazette.com.