Lynnwood Council gets answers about permitting for opioid treatment center

LYNNWOOD, Wash., March 22, 2023—The Lynnwood City Council received some answers from the Development and Business Services Department about permitting for the controversial Acadia opioid treatment center during their work session on March 20.

“Mayor, members of council, we totally understand and we will truly never let this happen again,” Development and Business Services Director David Kleitsch said. “I think part of the lapse here was there was a previous methadone that operated for 5-10 years in the community without any problems, without any criminal issues, and we just flipped this. So my apologies to the mayor and council. It is our goal that this never happens again.”

Essentially, because Acadia was classified as a “clinic” rather than an “Essential Public Facility” (EPF), it was allowed outright by the city’s zoning code. This meant that unlike an EPF permit, it did not require oversight by the council, public notice, public comment, or public hearing. 

Lynnwood’s defined list of EPFs include: 

  • Airport 
  • State Education Facility
  • State or Regional Transportation Facility
  • State or Local Correctional Facility
  • Solid Waste Handling Facility
  • Inpatient Facility
  • Substance Abuse Facilities
  • Mental Health Facilities
  • Groups Homes
  • Secure Community Transition Facilities

Clearly listed above are substance abuse facilities. However, the keyword is the category it falls under: inpatient facility. 

“That is a significant differential in our code that required [Acadia] to be treated as a clinic, which is permitted by right, which followed the building permit process. It did not get treated as an essential public facility,” Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren said

Almgren did confirm that the council can update the code to add distance requirements, conditional use, and/or outreach requirements and be passed by ordinance. He also mentioned that, if passed, State Bill (SB) 5624 could require the council to update any related city ordinances.

Councilmember Patrick Decker expressed concerns about a particular provision of SB 5624, which would no longer require the state department of health (DOH) to hold public hearings for EPFs.

“I seriously doubt DOH is going to have a public hearing if it’s not required,” Decker said. “So this really tells me that our legislators in Olympia — although pledging to be transparent — are in fact passing legislation which deliberately creates opacity and removes community involvement and community visibility into decisions they are making that negatively impact the lives of our families and our communities.”

The council also received an update on the comprehensive plan, which includes the possibility of annexation or boundary revisions, for the City Center and Alderwood areas.

According to the city, this plan will determine the general zoning and construction for the next 20 years in City Center and Alderwood areas. The goal is to cohesively connect the region with the two light rail stations, prepare for the eventual extension to Everett and the influx of passengers these stations will bring, and foster additional housing and job opportunities. 

“Let’s face it, we’re not forcing people to move here. This is just what’s going to happen because of what we have here,” Councilmember George Hurst said. “I think Lynnwood has a great future as the city for south Snohomish County. We will be it. So I look forward to it, but it means we really have to plan well. We have to be prepared.”

It is important to note that the City Center and Alderwood project is still in an “analyze and review” stage and won’t be adopted until later this year or well into 2024. 

The council discussed the use of mixed-use development — buildings that typically have parking below ground, retail space on the ground level, and residential units above —  compared to office space.

“We do have the desire to have higher paying jobs, but I think we need office space for that,” Hurst said. “Right now, it just seems like we’re building five- or six-story apartment buildings with retail on the bottom.” 

Hurst questioned Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren about where they plan to put office space. Almgren stated the city has received positive feedback from potential tenants about the 44th corridor and Northline.

Decker advocated for a priority on residential buildings over office space.

“What we need to focus on is making sure Lynnwood is a community where people want to live — let me restate that — a community where families who are paid a good salary want to live here and raise their families here,” Decker said. “That should be our focus and less focus on how many of those high paying jobs have to be here. If they come here, great. If they don’t, great, But let’s make sure Lynnwood is a community where families want to be.”

Decker then pointed out that with the light rail that is under construction, real estate agents are reporting an increased interest in housing options in Lynnwood. 

“We have to make sure that we’re attractive to those families as well, because they’re going to bring a lot of benefit to our community,” Decker said. “So office space, yes, but there are other things that will bring some of those populations to fill some of these densities that we’ve been talking about that we can focus on as well and it starts with making sure Lynnwood is a very liveable, friendly city to those people that are looking to move out of those higher density areas south of us.”

The council largely agreed that the city should appeal to higher income families, but Hurst also emphasized a need for inclusivity. 

“I agree, let’s attract folks that have a high income, but also I think we need to build housing that folks that teach or do service jobs are able to live in Lynnwood too,” Hurst said.

Editor’s Note: Featured image taken from City of Lynnwood video footage of Work Session on March 20, 2023.

George Ftikas Jr.

A graduate from the University of Washington Tacoma with a degree in communications and a minor in business. I hunger for new pieces of digital media: video games, animation, movies, comics, and television. Digital media creates the unique opportunity for interactive communities.

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