Allowing addiction service clinics in downtown Everett debated
EVERETT — A forthcoming decision whether substance abuse clinics should be allowed downtown brought two dozen people to speak to the City Council last week.
Last week’s proposal before council is to conditionally limit clinics and social services from the ground floor of buildings in part of Metro Everett if the clinic would have 50 or more patients a day, or if another clinic is 500 feet away (to prevent clustering) or if the building is 3,000 square feet or larger.
Cities cannot pick and choose on medical services or use zoning to let one in but not the other. Methadone clinics for recovering addicts and medical clinics for sprained wrists are not differentiated by federal law.
A zoning change within the wide-sweeping Metro Everett plan is still being formulated. Metro Everett, as a plan, is a comprehensive rulebook change for downtown and the immediate surrounding area.
Everett earlier this year set a short-term moratorium on any new clinics, which council approved to begin April 1. Council members set it to stop the clock until the larger Metro Everett plan was ready for their consideration.
The moratorium coincidentally halted substitute treatment provider Ideal Options from opening at 2808 Hoyt Ave. next to the Everett Elks Club, but talks earlier this year to set the moratorium did not revolve around the center. It treats using suboxone.
There are an estimated 56 clinics in the downtown Metro Everett area as well as 39 social service agencies, according to an estimate from the city planning department.
The council wants to choose from a set of options on this topic when the whole plan comes to a final vote Aug. 29. Four options listed are: One, a full prohibition on clinics; two, to prohibit clinics on key streets in the proposed metro area; three, to prohibit clinics on the ground floor everywhere within Metro Everett; or four, the conditionally limited list of restrictions put forward to the council last week.
A fifth option proposed by Councilwoman Judy Tuohy at the meeting asks to section clinics to a smaller area within downtown than what was presented. “It’s crucial we provide services but crucial we (also) provide a vibrant downtown core,” Tuohy said.
Council President Paul Roberts spoke to supporting a substance abuse clinic. “There’s no doubt in my mind we need more” social services, he said, adding that he’s “disappointed” other cities haven’t opened tupto more substance abuse clinics.
Downtown Everett Association leader Dana Oliver said the council’s decisions now will shape what Everett’s downtown becomes known for. She urged them to restrict clinics overall from the area.
Too many social services could harm rent prices, and that could drive away real estate investors from coming to Everett, Oliver said.
Ideal Options clients and physicians filled the speaker list. Some clients cried.
Centers like this are where people get help, physician Jeff Allgaier said. “They turn around, they get jobs, they get their families back.”
He added that there’s no evidence substance abuse clinics increase nearby crime.
Client Michael Foster said Ideal Options essentially gave him a way out of the red tape and condescending ways he was treated by traditional medicine. Another client, Amber Starkweather, said she can’t trust doctors, but the suboxone treatments she received at Ideal Options changed her life.
Everett Elks Club leader Darcy Kirschner warned that members are feeling unsafe from people loitering in the nearby EverPark garage.
The City Council’s next discussion relates to changes along Cedar and California streets at the Aug. 15 meeting. Zoning uses and height buffers in the historic Norton-Grand area was Aug. 1’s topic.
A full vote to approve the Metro Everett plan is scheduled for the Wednesday, Aug. 29 council meeting at 6:30 p.m. at 3002 Wetmore Ave.
A page on the Metro Plan is at www.everettwa.gov/metro
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