Council tells objectors ‘we do care’ while city works to move/mitigate drug clinic

by Jack Mayne

Des Moines City Council members had their first opportunity Thursday night to speak out publicly on the potential of the Valley Cities’ Woodmont Recovery Campus on Pacific Highway South, along with citizens expressing anger, angst and demands to ban the facility from Des Moines continued at the City Council meeting Thursday.

There were 16 often angry citizens who spoke at the (Sept. 10) meeting.

Mayor Kaplan said there have been many meetings with political leaders to brainstorm options, with some “interesting” ones which the city is pursuing as well as continuing to explore alternative sites.

“Whatever we do will have to be done with the blessing of Valley Cities” because they own the property and they have the permits, Kaplan said.

“We are going to leverage everything that we can to see if we can get it moved, and if not, reduce the scope of the services that would create the greatest impact are not sited at that facility.”

But the public has not heard much from the members of the Council. Each of the five members who attended the meeting spoke to the packed Council chambers. Councilmembers Jeremy Nutting and Matt Pina were not present.

Musser: ‘We do care’
Melissa Musser startled some by saying her father was a meth addict who died in jail “so I understand firsthand the fear of living in a neighborhood with those people showing up at any time.

“It breaks my heart when anyone here would think anyone on this Council, anyone on this dais, had a political agenda or would accept kickbacks or that we want this type of facility in our neighborhood when it impacts our kids.

“I am offended and my heart is broken when people say that,” Musser said.

She said the first she knew of the treatment facility was a single line in a December city manager’s report that said Woodmont Recovery campus applications and requests were submitted.

“That’s it,” she said, and did not understand the potential consequences, and did not until an article in the July issue of the Federal Way Mirror.

That was “the first time I had a true understanding of what this project really was. So I get it – blindsided is correct.”

‘We’re not the enemy’
Musser also said she doesn’t want a non-profit facility on one of the biggest commercial properties left in the city.

“We are losing revenue, revenue that could be used to hire more cops,” she said to applause from the audience.

“You are preaching to the choir,” she told the crowd, “but please don’t stop coming here because … you guys have guts to come in here and do this.

“So thank you for caring so passionately for coming in, but please know we are not the enemy.”

If they need 250 people a day coming to their door – “which is frightening to me – then it needs to be someplace else.”

Councilmember Victor Pennington said has lived in Des Moines, worked for the South King Fire and Rescue and its predecessor for over 40 years.

“I have worked the streets.”

He said Thursday night that he was not in favor of the location for the Valley Cities facility, but there was “a huge need” for such facilities in south King County.

‘Get that thing moved’
“People are dying … but I am concerned about the location,” Pennington said. “I will work to get that thing moved.”

But in reality, he said, “if it doesn’t work to get it moved, then we have to work together to mitigate the circumstances,” adding that the path the city is going “doesn’t set well with me.” The city should control what it can to make things better for “our kids and grand kids.”

He said his first information about the project was “a small scope” that would go on the Rose’s Hiway Inn property but later he was unhappy to find the size of the proposed facility.

“For those of you who felt blindsided, I did too,” Pennington said. “We need to work together as a community or we may as well pack it up and figure out where to go. It is not going to be easy and a lot of emotions are going to be really high, including my own. We can work through this, but we have to do it together. We are not going to get the resolution that we all want, but we have to make it safe.”

Pennington also asked if the “good neighbor agreement” that is to be negotiated between the city and Valley Services is binding – can the city enforce its provisions?

He was told by the city attorney that the agreement “is absolutely legally binding … and we can set the conditions” and if Valley Services violated any of its provisions, its business license can be revoked “and they would have to shut down.”

‘Everyone up here cares’
Councilmember Bob Sheckler said he supports people with “legitimate complaints” that asks the Council for help, but some people come and threaten the Council members.

“Don’t ever imply that anyone that sits up here now, or will ever, doesn’t care,” Sheckler said. “You don’t have to have children going to an elementary school to care. You don’t have to live in a particular neighborhood to care. Everyone that sits up here cares a great deal about this issue.”

Sheckler said “if I had a magic wand right now, I would wave it and get rid of it once and for all.”

It is not the facility, but the location, he said, “and this location truly sucks.”

“If I had known, and wasn’t blindsided (by Valley Services) that they were going to put in a methadone clinic in that location, I would have raised hell from day one.”

Sheckler said he believes Valley Services “did a good job keeping key information away” from members of the Council. He said he knew it “was perceived that property values would go down and crime rates would go up.

He said he would do whatever possible, “to get that location changed,” adding later that because it was an “essential public facility,” the best approach might be extracting mitigation from Valley Services.

“Because they are an essential public facility, it does not mean they can’t be held accountable for what they do while they are here,” Sheckler said.

“Number one, get it relocated; number two, mitigate the hell out of it.”

New Councilmember Luisa Bangs said she was “miffed at accusations that sometimes are made,” and knows there needs to be a public forum where questions can be asked and answered.

“We do have a care, we do understand and absolutely hear what you are saying,” Bangs said. “We can’t give you all the answers immediately that you want.”

782-ValleyCities_logo_tagline2No mention of methadone clinic
Mayor Dave Kaplan said Valley Services CEO Ken Taylor said they wanted to build a treatment campus last November, “but they did not mention anything about a methadone clinic.”

He first heard about in February when a citizen sent him an email asking about it, “and I didn’t know anything about it.”

The reason is that the project fit all the zoning requirements so it did not have to come before the Des Moines City Council.

“It was a permitted use,” the mayor said.

“I am not happy about it anymore than anyone else. Anyone who thinks I wanted this thing is crazy. Anyone who thinks I control staff is crazy. We have a fulltime city manager who runs the city,” Kaplan said. “I don’t run the city on a day-to-day basis – anybody who is under that impression, sorry you are wrong.”

Kaplan said there would be a Good Neighbor Agreement Committee with citizens involved and that there should be another community meeting where questions could be asked and answered.

No 120-day moratorium
Earlier Councilmember Pennington asked the assistant city attorney if the city can do as some citizens has asked – have a 120 day moratorium on the project – and he was told that wasn’t possible.

City Manager Tony Piasecki said it would take an extraordinary situation to re-open the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) decision made on Feb. 2 in the case, but said he was asking staff to “take a good hard look at the law” and see if there is a way and also potentially reopening design permits and building permits matters.

The city has legal requirements in reviewing and making decisions for permits in the rehabilitation facility. The first deadline is next Thursday (Sept. 17) with a 15-day comment period required. The city has already mailed a notice to every Des Moines household that “written comments concerning the proposed design” can be sent to City Hall until the end of the workday on Oct. 2. The city has to make whatever design changes that are needed within the next 14 days followed by a 14-day appeal period.

Appeals don’t go to the city, but to the outside contracted hearing examiner. Any appeals from those decisions must be at King County Superior Court.


26 Responses to “Council tells objectors ‘we do care’ while city works to move/mitigate drug clinic”
  1. Martin Metz says:

    We live in the southern end of Des Moines and our grandson attends Woodmont Elementary. Just for the record, we did not receive any notices from the city alerting us to being able to submit “written comments concerning the proposed design” to City Hall until the end of the workday on Oct. 2. We learned of this today only through the Waterland Blog and a non-city related Facebook site. If this is an example of the enhanced intent by the city to communicate with affected residents, it’s not working. Of course, we’ll continue to check our mailbox for the official notice while we craft our input regardless.

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  2. RedondoRick says:

    BEFORE THE HEARING EXAMINER FOR THE CITY OF DES MOINES: If you were to look into the city’s web-site. You’d find the Findings and Application and Notice. This was a meeting back on April 3rd 2015. Of the 17 people (11 Residents) who attended the meeting. This 15 page report shows the Findings, Conclusions, And Decision in the matter of the Application of Valley Cities Counseling & Consultation. This is the same 17 people that Karen Keiser 33rd Dist.-Kent mentioned in her monthly news letter. Attending the hearing, Dan Brewer, City Public Works Director. Who attends all city council meetings, and new back in October 2014 of this clinic going in and no mention of this to the city council? Hard to believe nothing was said to council. Mayor Kaplan has already been caught in a lie when he said that he didn’t know about this project until March of 2015. In the city’s web-site, in e-mails sent between Kaplan and CEO Ken Taylor, goes back to November 5, 2104. The city knew of this clinic back in August 2014. All this time goes by, does nobody talks to each other? Seems to me this is not your everyday business going in. I do believe that Ken Taylor came in and took advantage of a weak council. Not showing all his motives at once. Now he sits behind the law that protects him even though he was deceiving in his motions. On page 8 of 15 paragraph 12, Ken Taylor talks about mental health and detox patients that would be under lock and key 24/7. Does that ring a bell anyone? Not your average guest at Motel 6. Back last month the city council made a motion and passed the height variance from 35 feet to 45 feet. The council made it look like it was because the gentlemen who bought the Des Moines Theater, back in March 2015 wanted to add to the top of the theater. Not the case, Valley Cities in an e-mail asked back in October 2014 for a 62 feet variance. Later they came down to 50 feet. Why I say this is that it maybe the dagger in the back of all Des Moines residents. Now Valley Cities can build their tall buildings they’ve been waiting for. The council had to of known something. All we can do is take their word that they will fight this all the way, but looking back, I wouldn’t hold my breath…Rr

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    • Owl City says:

      the height increase was part of an area wide change to help with development along the corridor. What commercial developer can make money with a 35′ height limit? very little these days.

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      • RedondoRick says:

        Owl City, Your partly right. The real reason the height variance that was unanimously past two weeks ago by the city council. Was for Valley Cities who asked last October for a 62 feet variance. They later came down to 50 feet. The council lead us all to believe that is was because the new owner of the Des Moines Theater, ask for 45ft in March 2015. City wanted a non-refundable $10,000 fee. They didn’t gamble on it. One of many cover-ups the city pulled over this rehab facility…Rr

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        • Owl City says:

          the theatre and valley cities are in completely different zones. I am not sure why you are comparing the two sites? Both zones needed to be zoned for taller buildings to help development in the area succeed (the type of development is an entirely different discussion). So, you are arguing apples and oranges.

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        • Owl City says:

          oh, and its not a variance. its a text change to the zoning code. variance, again, is an entirely different thing.

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          • RedondoRick says:

            Humm, That’s what they called it, a variance. If it looks like a duck, quack’s like a duck, it’s probably a duck…Rr

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  3. John Castronover says:

    What a sad and truly shameful state that our city of Des Moines is in, we now have our elected City Council members attempting to convince us that they do in fact “care for our city”
    We now have our elected City Council members telling us that they were completely “Blindsided” by the scope of the Valley Cities Facility Plans for our community.
    We now have the Mayor of our city Dave Kaplan telling us that he is nothing more then just a “Part Time Employee” that it is the responsibility of our city manager Tony Piasecki to run the day to day operations of our city.
    Are we to believe that Ken Taylor, the CEO of Valley Cities is some kind of fast talking con man politician that approached our City Leaders and played everyone of you and got over on you all “Blindsided” everyone of you with this mess that each and everyone of us that call Des Moines home is now in.
    This is nothing less then a tragedy a tragedy that is going to change the entire face of our city as we know it and be remembered for decades to come.
    Shame, Shame on you all.

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  4. BirchCreek says:

    Who does the City Manager work for? Wouldn’t you think he would have had the common sense to notify the city leaders about the permit applications for this facility? And then to put only one line about it in a December report to the council!
    The City Manger has to go, and I wonder why no one is holding his feet to the fire about this.
    Why isn’t anyone calling for his resignation?

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  5. AB in DM says:

    LOL. Mayor Kaplan is definitely no “The buck stops here” Harry Truman Democrat.

    Unbelievably, he threw his staff under the bus. “Waaaaaa, I didn’t know, I’m just a (paid) volunteer…” Thump-Thump. A politically-expedient dodge to maintain his position and save face for his, X-mayor Sheckler’s and the City Manager’s ineptitude.

    Way to lead man. Take no responsibility and let your people take the heat. How embarrassing.

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    • Cedar Creek says:

      He does that pretty darn well. He’ll take credit for the business park expansion and the FAA, but oh no, the woodmont recovery center… “not a clue.”

      The staff keeps the council WELL informed in the committee meetings. those are not recorded though. How nice.

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  6. maggie says:

    This just gets more shameful each time I read about it. I find it hard to believe that no one, mayor, city council, city manager, thought maybe they should inform the citizens of Des Moines of what was set to happen in our town. We live here and we have a right to know.
    The citizens of Des Moines have been blindsided by the people we elected to watch over our city.
    The city manager and the mayor should be gone! Maybe the entire city council. Let’s just clear the slate. Bring in the State Attorney General to investigate what happened here!
    The mayor and the city manager are trying to bamboozle the residents of Des Moines!

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    • RedondoRick says:

      Maggie, I agree with you totally! Someone needs to be accounted for the irresponsibility of not giving information out from the very first knowledge of this clinic. I vote on the City Manager, and Mayor. The lies and deceits have no business in our local government. We need a council that will look out for us, that’s their job! Now we stare at the chance that this will ever effect the quality of life, we were use to. Not only are they putting this clinic in the middle of a neighborhood, next to a Library and a block from a Elementary School. But it’s the farthest from all police agencies that surround it, that being, Kent, Federal Way, and Des Moines! Is Des Moines Doomed!…Rr

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      • Czwoodmont says:

        The city of DM does not have our interests at heart and hasn’t since annexation. Remember when we all had the crappiest cable anywhere? How Sheckler bent over for the third runway, and now we all have to buy triple-glazed windows to meet sound-deadening codes. (The Port doesn’t just give out those windows.) Only other city with that requirement is Clyde Hill.

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        • Cedar Creek says:

          Sound code was eliminated quite a while ago. Just to update you.

          Every city has its issues. None is perfect. The citizens are responsible for helping to make it better. Get involved more, attend public meetings, not just where something controversial is going on. I do.

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  7. John Castronover says:

    Video the future of Des Moines

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  8. AB in DM says:

    Councilwoman Melissa (Party Girl) Musser, despite her “I’m not the enemy, I REALLY do care…” crocodile-tears act last Thursday, is just as much part of the problem as the rest of the Kooky-Kaplan-Clan.

    Indeed, she wrote a letter to the entire Des Moines PTA a few years back, essentially publicly denying we have a crime problem here in DM; despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I remember thinking just how utterly out-of-touch Musser was with what is going on in her city, and how ballsy she was to make such a clueless statement. I was incensed that she used our school’s PTA network to spread that propaganda.

    Despite this, I was quite delighted and surprised to see Councilwoman Musser (arguably the most liberal member of the Council) at a local Gunshow recently. No doubt, Musser now feels the rising danger in her own city, and knows she has not been funding enough police to protect her family (or ours), thereby requiring an effective means to protect herself. Regardless of her past transgressions, I applaud Councilwoman Musser for her private perceptiveness to the crime in Des Moines and her self-reliance. Considering what we are up against with this forthcoming “essential facility,” I suggest we all follow her lead in this matter.

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  9. Todd says:

    Will someone on the city council PLEASE STAND UP and declare that City Manager Tony Piasecki needs to be FIRED! Dave Kaplan, Matt Pina, M. Luisa Bangs, Vic Pennington, Jeremy Nutting, Melissa Musser, Bob Sheckler. One of you needs to understand that Tony Piasecki was appointed city manager of Des Moines in May of 2002, after serving as the city’s assistant city manager since 1996. Tony has had over 13 years running city into the ground. What is it that you are so scared of to remove this NON-ELECTED bureaucrat. Tony been running city longer than you have been in office. I would assume Tony is so much in control if anyone of you were to step up and take him on Tony could make life very difficult for you and if that is the case then at least change his title from “City Manger” to “KING”, “His Eminence”, “Ruler of Des Moines”, “Emperor” so that all us little Taxpaying citizens truly understand where the power is.

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  10. Bob Sheckler says:

    Correction. Tony has not been the city manager longer than anyone on the city council. Not even close.

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    • todd says:

      Bob !!! OMG is that ALL you got in defense of Tony Piasecki. You make my point clear you cannot even say anything else in support of Tony? The citizens of Des Moines are sick and tired of Tony Piasecki incompetence and your inability to hold him accountable. Get a grip and do City justice and send Tony packing.

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  11. Bob Sheckler says:

    So now you speak for the city of Des Moines? Maybe you should run for the city council.

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  12. todd says:

    Bob ! Get a grip on yourself, attacking the citizens is not going solve the problem. We all know Tony Piasecki put City in this mess and he needs to be fired. I will be glad to run for City Council once Tony is fired and you resign. The two of you continue move in negative direction and it’s time you retire to Florida on your own nickel.

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