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Moratorium on accepting substance abuse facilities application holds, for now

LYNNWOOD, Wash., June 16, 2023–The Lynnwood City Council held a public hearing for the moratorium on accepting applications for substance abuse clinics during their business meeting on June 12.

The emergency ordinance, passed back in April, was the city council’s response to being largely blindsided by the opening of Acadia Healthcare’s Lynnwood Comprehensive Treatment Center and its proximity to the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club.

“I’m not against these facilities,” Council President Shannon Sessions said during the meeting. “The reason that I made noise about the first one was because it was located right next to the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club and… we weren’t included in those decisions in any way, shape or form — the city council, at all. And so, that is a completely different topic than this moratorium.” 

Public comments during the meeting were notably different from the discussion around the Acadia clinic, with the majority of speakers opposing the moratorium. Councilmember George Hurst inquired what would happen if the council ended the moratorium, with Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren replying that opioid treatment facilities would return to being permitted as standard medical clinics. There is currently one pending — albeit incomplete — application with the city that had been submitted prior to the moratorium.

City Attorney Lisa Marshall also commented on ending the ordinance.

“An appeal of the emergency ordinance would have to be made timely after passage of the ordinance and I can assure you, 60 days is far too long,” Marshall said. “The moratorium has not been appealed and, if it is now, it would be untimely.” 

After some discussion with the attorney, Hurst said, “So basically, this public hearing is as useless as the department of health’s public hearing. It’s a done deal.”

Hurst went on to state his concern with the rising number of opioid-related deaths.

“One of the public comments talked about, through April, there’ve been 107 drug overdose deaths in Snohomish County,” Hurst said. “There were 214 the whole year of 2022. We’re only talking about the first quarter of 2023. I am concerned that we’re going to wait until October to make a decision on this.”

Sessions, however, was not so convinced the moratorium should end, highlighting that the issue isn’t a Lynnwood-only problem.

“If [treatment facilities] are so important, then talk to the other cities and the county to do their part and have them as well,” Sessions said. “With the private work I do, I see, on a daily basis, these deaths. I know how bad it is. I work with the families. But it’s not just Lynnwood. So can everybody do their due diligence as well and open up and have them come into their cities and the county? I think that’s only fair and it’ll make it easier for those people who need that service to get it — not just in the city limits of Lynnwood.”

Councilmember Patrick Decker also spoke in favor of maintaining the moratorium, citing the Acadia facility has hovered around half capacity.

“The clinic that is open in Lynnwood right now has more than enough room for patients who wish to take advantage of those services,” Decker said. “The moratorium, despite what you’re hearing, is not killing anyone. Nobody is dying because of this moratorium.”

The second public hearing pertained to an amendment made to the 2023 Comprehensive Plan. The Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) submitted an application to rezone properties located at 5710 and 5714 200th Street SW from medium-density multi-family to high-density multi-family. HASCO wants to redevelop the Timberglen and Pinewood apartments into a single housing facility — adding additional units in the process. 

According to HASCO Executive Director Duane Leonard, the buildings may appear solid, but Timberglen is 55 years old and “needs significant capital improvements in order to maintain its functionality.”

Most public comments were opposed to the redevelopment, stating concerns about the short-term nature of the plan, displacement during construction and the costs after the project is completed.

Algrem did mention during the meeting that even if the zoning change isn’t approved, the housing authority is still well within their rights to redevelop the property while still complying with the medium-density zoning laws.

The council also made two proclamations at the meeting. The first was a recognition of Pride Month — read by Councilmember Shirley Sutton — where the city stated a commitment “to being a safe, welcoming and equitable community for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, country of origin, or any other identity.”

A community member who spoke after the proclamation commended the council for not being like “a lot of lawmakers” who “push [the LGBTQ+ community] to the sidelines.”

The second proclamation was a recognition of Juneteenth — read by Councilmember Josh Binda — that designates June 19, 2023 as Juneteenth in the city of Lynnwood. Officially referred to as Juneteenth National Independence Day, the federal holiday commemorates the emancipation of African American slaves in the U.S. 

The celebration began in Texas, where, on June 19, 1865, Union troops arrived in Galveston Bay and announced that the over 250,000 slaves throughout the state were free by executive decree. This occurred over two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 went into effect and two months after the surrender of the Confederate army on April 18, 1865 — which marked the end of the Civil War.

The City of Lynnwood “[encourages] everyone to celebrate Juneteenth by strengthening our resolve to dismantle systemic racism, denounce hatred and bigotry and renew our pledge to eradicate racial inequity and social injustice in our communities and throughout the world. And acknowledging and recognizing the contributions of enslaved Africans including culture, economic growth, and development.

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