ANALYSIS: State law says Des Moines officials cannot stop drug recovery facility

News Analysis by Jack Mayne

Blaming the Des Moines City Council, mayor or city manager for the placing of the Valley Cities’ Woodmont Recovery Campus on Pacific Highway South is like blaming the Weather Service for the windstorm that doused the lights of thousands of King County homes recently.

Who do we blame?

The Washington State Legislature!

Legislators long ago passed the law that requires the city to approve the siting of mental health and drug care facilities, amongst other “essential” facilities.

Cities can only require such places to take adequate steps to safeguard nearby residents and to pay additional expanses such as police patrols. Valley Cities made that pact with the city.

Can’t be stopped
Des Moines can’t stop it.

King County can’t stop it.

Washington State can’t stop it.

Only the Washington Legislature can stop it BUT…

That would mean a special session to change state law on siting “essential public facilities.” The chances to that are virtually non-existent, especially after the State Supreme Court said charter schools were unconstitutional and cut off public money. Some want the Legislature to fix that.

Des Moines residents have only one other way and it is very expensive, time consuming and chancy at best: for the residents to come up with thousands of dollars of their own money to finance a very good law firm to take the case into King County Superior Court.

Maybe, just maybe a judge would halt things for the years that it would take to move a legal case from Superior Court to the state appellate court, to the state Supreme Court.

The verdict? Anybody’s guess!

But the odds are that the “essential public facilities” law would be upheld and the 24 beds and a 25,340 square foot detoxification facility would be built at 26915 Pacific Highway South despite public objections.

The only other way to stop the facility is if the operators can find an affordable replacement site. We have been told the City of Des Moines is working on that potential – but so far no luck.

Why such a law?
The Legislature says that some “essential public facilities” are “public facilities that are typically difficult to site.”

Simply, no one wants them in their back yard.

The law specifically says such things are inpatient facilities including substance abuse, mental health facilities, group homes, and secure community transition facilities.

That all means there will be a Valley Cities’ Woodmont Recovery Campus in Des Moines, unless one of those steps above can make a change.

Why can’t the city pass ordinances against such things that the people in the neighborhood are afraid of and just don’t want nearby?

Every city in the state must have “a process for identifying and siting essential public facilities.”

“No local comprehensive plan or development regulation may preclude the siting of essential public facilities.”

The state law, which overrides any city ordinance, says that.

The city did obey state law, and it obeyed its own comprehensive plan by hiring a hearing examiner to make certain that safety and mitigation on costs to the city were covered by Valley Cities.

Some people have criticized the city that an out of town hearing examiner was hired. But no smaller city can afford to have a qualified hearing examiner on staff for the very rare cases where such expertise would be needed.

Citizens who don’t like the decision cannot sue, says state law.

“No person may bring a cause of action for civil damages based on the good faith actions of any county or city to provide for the siting of secure community transition facilities…”

Insults won’t help
Again, calling city officials names, and telling them they turned their backs on the citizens of Des Moines is useless activity, because the city did do their job as required by state law.

You may not like the decision, but blame the Washington Legislature, not the Des Moines city staff, mayor or Council.

The only mistake the city officials made was to not inform residents in a timely fashion and then to alert people in a too-small area. Mayor Dave Kaplan has admitted that error and the Council has already ordered a city ordinance be drafted to require every citizen of the city be alerted and informed of any such momentous decision in the future.


30 Responses to “ANALYSIS: State law says Des Moines officials cannot stop drug recovery facility”
  1. RedondoRick says:

    That’s what’s wrong with the state laws. You can’t have a Marijuana Dispensary within a 1,000 feet of schools, but you can have a facility with a HIGH danger to children next door. I blame all levels of government for this. Remember, this is not just a health clinic. This is something that this state has never seen. How can a lock-down 24-7 campus be of any “good neighbor” quality? Our city council new of this for a year, and kept it hush hush, why? Because of the fallout this would cause if the general public would of found out. I don’t believe Ken Taylor, CEO of Valley Cities played all his cards when he first approached the city. Even in an e-mail early from the Architect to the city, he stated that this (clinic) has blown out of proportion. What’s that saying? I still hold the city council accountable for the lies and deceit and for not letting the citizens of Des Moines (& surrounding neighborhoods) the truth. I believe there’s still an even bigger story that we don’t know of here. I do know that no good will become of this facility next to a Library and school. Valley Cities, WE DON”T WANT YOU AS OUR NEIGHBOR, PERIOD!!!…Rr

    • Bobby Valentino says:

      Im interested to see where you saw that there is HIGH danger around lock-down rehabs. Is there a link or study?

      • John Castronover says:

        Bobby V, Man there’s a big difference between Methadone Treatment and Recovery, ask yourself this, would you want your kids walking the streets with a Dirty Dog Dope Feen Hair Ron Addict Jonesin for his or her drug? Hell No.

  2. John Castronover says:

    Jack Mayne, which city officials provided you with all these legal facts to write this article for them on their behalf?
    Are you aware that the hearing examiner that the city hired was in fact given a recommendation to approve by our own city leaders.

    • Jack Mayne says:

      No city official gave me anything! I did all the research myself and wrote this without knowledge of ANY public or private official of any kind. That is what I do, research a story on my own and publish the facts I find.
      I do not know what someone may have told the hearing examiner, but if that examiner took statments from the city or any other source as an order and conditionled his decision on that basis, then he violated ethics and the law. I very seriously doubt that.
      If you have facts, not conjecture, then let me know.

  3. Ozella Y. Burnley says:

    First of all I’m in recovery. I have been clean for 15 years. It really sickens me with the comments I read. I’m all for the city of Des Moines to build a treatment facility. So the people who are suffering from the horrors of addiction, can get the help they need. What really angers me, is that people want to bitch about a treatment center being built, but you allow sexual molesters live in our communities near schools, and public parks. As a recovering addict, the treatment facility I attended, gave me what I needed to become a better person, better mother, and grandmother. My life is beautiful, and blessed, without the use of drugs. I thank God and NA, and the treatment center that I attended, for the life I have now. My suggestion to the people who are bitching and complaining , take at look at yourself. I’m sure you’ve done things that you’re not proud of. These people need help. Instead of throwing rocks, be happy that the one’s who are suffering with their addiction, will finally get the help they need to become a productive member of society.

    • John Castronover says:

      What the hell you talking about Ozella, calm yourself down and get to a meeting, read up and see what the issue is.
      Not one person opposing this facility is saying anything about the need of this clinic, Mentally Distrubed Drug Addicts need help no question about it we are all for the help that suffering addicts need that’s not the issue Ozella the location of the facility is the issue.
      Putting Mentally Distrubed Drug Addicts who are ” suffering The Horrors Of Addiction as you call it ” should not be in close conact to children next to a library, school and our homes, that’s the issue Ozella. Keep Coming back it works if you work it!

    • BirchCreek says:

      Ozella, drug addicts and “Sexual Molesters” are not moral equilalents and not a good comparision point for your aurgument. (Personally I feel that all sexual molesters (the male ones) should be castrated and emasculinated, but that thought is for another time and discussion…)
      THE POINT IS NOT PUTTING A FACILITY NEXT TO A SCHOOL! In what mad, senseless world is it ok to potentially put children at risk?
      You know, “tree huggers” chain themselves to trees to stop them from being cut down. People could consider peaceful civil disobedience to prevent construction of the facility at this location.

    • Carri says:

      Perfectly said….the guy above refers to a mom cleaning up needles (ahem) the needles are already here in our neighborhoods! At least with this facility they will be able to get the help they need. Citizens need to be more concerned for those addicts who are not looking for help. They will be the ones selling to your children NOT the ones seeking care.

  4. Dolores Church says:

    Thank you for this well researched and informative article about an issue too often confused by raw emotion and rampant speculation.

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    This facility is sorely needed in South King County. That’s a fact.

    Facilities like this next to a library and school are a recipe for disaster. That’s a fact.

    All it takes is for one child to get Hepatitis or AIDS from a contaminated needle for this to have been not worth it. That’s it. One child harmed voids all the good that this facility will certainly do. It’s not worth the risk or the cost to that one child. I pray that it’s not my child.

    Move this somewhere that greatly reduces the risk to children in the community. I gave a couple of suggestions to Mr. Taylor already. Others have done so as well. Let’s get this done.

  6. John Castronover says:

    Dave Kaplan what a shame Des Moines does not have this guy for our mayor, he’s not hiding behind some State Law to protect his community he serves.

    • Carri says:

      Read the article…he is trying to make it safe as possible…because state law prevents him from saying no just like our laws!

  7. Des Moines Homeowner says:

    I’m thoroughly disgusted with the lack of concern from our elected leaders. YOU should protect our communities from terrible decisions like this drug treatment facility. What intelligent person would believe that it is OK to have a facility in a bed room community as ours? It is insane to put this next to an elementary school that has children walking to and from school AND a library. This facility belongs near a hospital or industrial area and not in an upscale neighborhood. I’m so concerned and so vehemently opposed to living near this fiasco, that unless this is not halted dead in its tracks, that we have decided to start looking for a new place to live. If you own a home in the Des Moines area, I suggest you start looking for a new place to live before your property values decline or you or your children feel unsafe.

  8. Susan White says:

    I WANT TO THANK KING COUNTY COUNCILMEMBER DAVE UPTHEGROVE WHO HAS AGREED TO OPPOSE COUNTY FUNDING FOR THIS PROJECT UNTIL THE METHADONE CLINIC IS REMOVED. I just received a letter from him and just had a brief conversation with him to thank him for his leadership and understanding on what this means to all of us. I think as a community we can take a deep breath at least for right now and thank you Dave Upthegrove!!!

  9. tess says:

    I’m fascinated by this thread and activity to prevent a treatment facility within des moines. It really makes me wonder just what kind of people populate this area…as beautiful as it is. Shame really, in the 7 years I’ve been here…1. parents prevent their children from communicating with my son b/c he rides metro to get around (called independence) 2. the teachers and school administrators bully their parents/children (the slapping incident by a council member…case in point) 3. The county rep from this area, won’t assist my son after he’s wrongfully accused of assault for defending himself against his bully of 4 yrs. 4. The des moines officer who investigated created and filed a false report against a 16 yr-old. It’s unfortunate that values are conveniently used to protect individual interests. Shame. If anyone would like to comment, feel free, though please don’t interpret my lack of response as anything more than getting on with things. Great to see a community come together, it’s unfortunate that this area only comes together for things like this. A lot of the drug dealers, fine upstanding citizens, are going to be your neighbors and friends…from what I’ve seen. Just saying.

    • BirchCreek says:

      Tess, it is not the treatment center I object to, but the location next to a school and library. Why is that concern not valid?

  10. Tony says:

    Don’t let council member Upthegrove off the hook on this one so easily just because he promises not to send any county funds to this project….. BIG DEAL! Where was he a year ago when this was proposed? He did know anything about this? Very unlikely. Why wasn’t he a LEADER in mobilizing the tri city area to help stop this crazy idea?
    No funds to a project that never should have got off the ground at the current site.
    Again I say BIG DEAL!

    Voters: Please consider whoever is his opposing candidates in the next election.

  11. Lisa says:

    There have been studies done on the impact of recovery centers:

    Stat from the second link:
    Admissions to drug treatment increased 37.4
    percent and federal spending on drug treatment increased 14.6 percent from
    1995 to 2005. During the same period, violent crime fell 31.5 percent.
    Maryland experienced decreases in crime when jurisdictions increased the
    number of people sent to drug treatment.

    • John Castronover says:

      Lisa, if your so eager to play cheerleader for this facility here’s what you can do to support it, as the long time residents of this community put there homes on the market to leave,you can buy up one of the homes here so you and your family can live happily with the Junkies that will be polluting our community.

    • AB in DM says:

      [snip from Lisa’s 1st link]
      “The researchers used Baltimore City Police Department records from 1999‒2001 and global positioning data to plot the distribution of FBI Part I crimes (homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) within a 100-meter (328-foot) radius of 15 Methadone Treatment Clinics (MTC). A statistical analysis of the plots showed that the crimes were no more frequent within 25 meters of the MTCs than they were 75 to 100 meters away.” [/snip]

      Oh lawd, let me count the ways this analysis is outrageously messed-up or flat out doesn’t apply to our situation…

      Your premise defies common sense Lisa. Rainbows will NOT break out in the city, nor will we have a gumdrop showers and unicorns prancing through the streets when this thing gets dumped on the city. It is an abomination, totally unsupportable by current city police staffing.

      Frankly folks, I don’t give a crap if the addicts have to go into Seattle to get their substitute smack; sorry if that’s inconvenient. They made poor personal choices to imbibe and get addicted, and THEY can live with that inconvenience. Indeed, their convenience does NOT trump the safety and security of the law-abiding citizens of Des Moines, nor the value of their property.

  12. Nancy Kuehnoel says:

    I live in the Woodmont area and am glad to hear of a treatment facility nearby. There are no nearby resources such as this for addiction treatment available for our family and our neighbors. People seeking treatment will be coming to the facility–not those who are not interested in changing their life. I welcome and encourage people who are trying to become better citizens.

    • Mysty beal says:

      Thanks for your reasonable assessment, Nancy, and we appreciate you and your husband’s years of service to this community. Permit me to pre-empt those that suggest I should have the facility located near my house -I’d happily swap the half dozen sex offenders that live near me and three schools for the treatment facility. I’d be curious to see if anyone has researched crime stats in areas where these types of facilities are located or are just shrieking because their property values may be impacted. And for those dreaming up conspiracy theories about our legislators and pay-offs, Senator Keiser is out of the country and unable to respond to some of these crazy charges (ran into her at Trader Joe’s a couple weeks ago)…

      And for those threatening to sell out and move, I can only advise that it’s a seller’s market now, and you should get your asking price easily.

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