Angry Woodmont residents again demand no drug clinic in their neighborhood


Listen to full, raw audio of the special Sept. 16 Des Moines City Council public hearing here:

by Jack Mayne

There were no pitchforks, but lots of loud and sometimes angry comments from mostly the same Woodmont neighborhood residents as they once more made it quite clear they want nothing to do with a drug and alcohol treatment facility.

The three-hour long, boisterous special Des Moines City Council session on Wednesday night (Sept. 16) included suggestions of possibly replacing Councilmembers as well as firing City Manager Tony Piasecki.

There was not a single soul voicing support for the location that Valley Cities has already purchased on Pacific Highway for the facility during the meeting, which was held in the historic old Des Moines Field House.

It was often loud and boisterous, and with many sets of applause for statements against Valley Cities Counseling and Consultation of Kent’s plans to build a facility with 40 beds, along with an office building, a methadone dispensary clinic and office space.

All Councilmembers except Jeremy Nutting attended.

‘We heard you’
Reps. Tina Orwall and Carol Gregory were called to speak first by Mayor Dave Kaplan. The two had earlier written a letter to the community expressing their disapproval of the Woodmont site picked for Valley Cities’ Recovery Campus

Orwall, of the 33rd District, said at the meeting that she wanted Des Moines residents to know “that we heard you” and would do “everything we can” to move the proposed facility to another location. She and Gregory said they have done a lot of discussing the matter with people in the Legislature and in King Council government.

At the same time, Orwall said there was a “huge need for these types of services in south King county.” First, the facility should be moved, but then sited somewhere in the south county to make “our community safer.”

“We are here to move forward and to do the right thing for our community,” Orwall said.

Rep. Gregory, of the adjacent 30th Legislative District, said the community and the Des Moines Council is facing a difficult problem while the Legislature was trying to provide services for all its people. The state has previously been sued for not having available drug and mental health services.

“We have to site services where they best fit the community … and there are such places in south King County for services like this,” Gregory said. “But a neighborhood and a school are not good neighbors for a facility like this.”

Must get it moved
Gregory said she also wanted to thank the Des Moines mayor and Council because “they were placed in a very, very difficult situation and they were placed in that situation without any involvement of themselves, but all of a sudden it was in their lap.

“We aren’t finished, we haven’t solved it, but we have a lot of support at the level we need to get it sited differently,” Gregory said.

Orwall said later in the lengthy session that the Woodmont residents would be kept informed about the search and negotiations for a new site for the treatment center.

In addition, on Thursday (Sept. 17), Gregory’s seatmate, Rep. Linda Kochmar, sent a letter to the community that added her support for moving the Valley Cities facility (download/read a PDF of that here).

“Some of these services such as the methadone dispensary would be more appropriately located at facilities away from residential neighborhoods,” Kochmar wrote. “The underlying fact is that the siting of this facility was not well thought out and public processes did not adequately service the people. It is essential that we listen and develop a better plan to bring critical mental health and drug treatment services to south King County with state, local and community support.”

Doesn’t have to be here
When questioning from the public began, a woman wondered why someone from Valley Services wasn’t there and Mayor Dave Kaplan told her that they were aware of the session. Unstated was the obvious: why would they stick their heads in this lion’s mouth?

A man asked if there was “any legal reason or ruling that says this facility has to be in the City of Des Moines?”

City Manager Tony Piasecki said, “They don’t have to be here.”

A man who said he just purchased a home in Des Moines in July, but that he would not have if he had known about the potential treatment facility, also spoke.

“I’ve retired after 33 years in the military defending my country and now I feel like I will have to defend my neighborhood,” he said.

‘Move it’
Much of the session was a restatement and requisitioning about the treatment facility that seems likely to be sited elsewhere or its “troublesome” aspects removed from this location.

For example, Michelle Johnson asked a series of question about what precautions would be taken for recovering addicts when they walk around the campus or to keep them from leaving the property. She also wanted to know if there would be enough parking places on site for visitors, patients and staff, and if increased traffic on Pacific Highway would cause problems.

Johnson also wondered if homeless facilities would be provided and if that would not draw more homeless to their neighborhood.

She was interrupted after several minutes by Mayor Kaplan to ask if she had any specific questions to ask.

City Manager Piasecki said many of the issues are part of the discussions for a “good neighbor agreement” that the city will engage in with Valley Cities.

Piasecki did say that homeless assistance, such as shower facilities, appear not to be part of the potential activities on the facility property, but with the nature of the detoxification of patients, that needs to be further discussed with the developer.

‘Will the kids be OK?’
Johnson also suggested that if the facility is built, it should be financially responsible for two additional police officers for the area since she said it has been indicated that current officers not enough if the area becomes problem prone.

With a tear in her voice, Johnson wanted to know how children would be gotten safely to school if the treatment center is opened.

“Will the kids be okay,” adding that problems from the facility could “haunt them for the rest of their lives.”

“You know there are going to be drugs there and there will be drug dealers to sell drugs to the recovering addicts,” she said.

The operator of the rehabilitation center “if it remains in the area,” Piasecki said, will be required to adhere to an agreement still being developed. Part of the agreement, he said, would require the facility to reimburse for costs created by the facility and its patients.

Stay in Des Moines?
Kaplan was asked if the facility were moved, would it still be in Des Moines?

“Based on the conversations I have had with our elected officials at the state level and conversations I have had with others, they are trying to identify a place somewhere in south King County. Potentially it could be within Des Moines but it will be in an appropriate place.”

The city does not know more details of that potential move, he said.

A man asked about whether the discussions on the design of the treatment center could be held in abeyance until a decision is made on the location; the city manager said the law specified that decisions be made according to a set time line.

“This design on this site must be done by Oct. 2,” Piasecki said, and then there is an appeal period.

Then comes the building permits and only for a single building – an evaluation and treatment center – which will be considered first.

A person said that if the “Good Neighbor Agreement” is influenced by the City Council and the citizens of Woodmont it would be very much against Valley Cities and their plans. Piasecki said it would be an agreement that would reflect community concerns.

“Without that agreement, Valley Cities cannot operate,” he said.

Council in the dark
The Councilmembers said once again they were blindsided and didn’t know until recently what Valley Cities was planning.

Councilmember Melissa Musser said she has been busy on the phone and Internet discussing the situation, and mentioned that the city manager was preparing a more aggressive plan to advise Councilmembers when potentially difficult developments were brought to the city since the Council unanimously has said members were unaware that such a facility as a drug treatment operation was in the offing.

Councilmember Luisa Bangs said she is also discussing the problem with residents and expects a better system of keeping members advised of potentially controversial developments, which would head off such problems in the future.

Then Mayor ProTem Matt Pina told the audience he was recommending an attorney experienced in such critical siting problems be hired by the city to lead negotiations of the “Good Neighbor Agreement” because he was not skilled enough in this type of negotiations.

“If I am going to go into a fight, I want to have my team lined up,” and his suggestion drew audience applause.

A citizen said that Councilmembers should have alerted the people sooner, “I can’t forgive you for that.” He added that the Valley Services people were not upfront with their plans, and that “the methadone matter did not come into the picture until April.”

City manager to blame?
John Castronover said he had a pointed question for City Manager Piasecki.

“My question to you is, was our City Council members conveniently left in the dark with withheld information on what was going on because some of your staff would think they would disagree with this and shoot this down?

Then Castronover said he has obtained emails that said Kent and Federal Way police chiefs had informed him about the potential facility and that Des Moines Chief George Delgado “had reservations” about the treatment center and wondered why Piasecki totally disregarded his concerns.

Piasecki said he started mentioning the facility in his comments to Council starting October 2014 and mentioned it was a drug and alcohol treatment facility when that became known.

“But I will say, hindsight is 20-20, my communication should have been much more detailed, should have been much more often,” and that is what is taking place now with new procedures for advising Council weekly of potential problems. This will be with phone calls and memos and posts on the city website.

Piasecki said he would “take full responsibility for not properly telling the Council.”

He said he thought the chief’s email about the potential problems of the facility would be part of the record that the hearing examiner would consider.

Ask for resignation?
Later in the meeting a resident asked if any Council member would want to ask Piasecki to resign because he did not notify the Council fully on the substance of the proposed facility.

He was told the matter could not be discussed in a public meeting. The Council would have to discuss that matter in an executive session after all information had been gathered.

Pena said the primary issue was getting the facility moved or increasing mitigation if it is to remain and that responsibility could be assessed later.

Here are more photos from the event, as taken by Scott Schaefer (click images to see larger versions/slideshow):
















16 Responses to “Angry Woodmont residents again demand no drug clinic in their neighborhood”
  1. John Castronover says:

    Reviewing the email transcripts of this entire mess, City Manager Tony Piasecki, Building and Planning Department Staff Dan Brewer, Brandon Carver and Nikole Coleman and others are going back and fourth on ” How Exciting This Is “Yeah, take a look of the faces of everyone of our city leaders sitting in front at the table, just how excited are they now.

    • Bea DaChange says:

      I really hope that you and the rest educate yourselves instead of living in what seems a fear almost on the edge of hysteria – are you a man or what?

      Treatment is needed, it reduces crimes, your children are more likely to be harmed at a school or a church than near a center like this, in fact – your children are more likely to be harmed because you chose to buy a home next to a major airport than because a center like this is going to be near.

      Relax. Stop living in fear. Maybe you are worried about your property values – well, if so, why in the world did you buy in Des Moines? NIMBY whiners.

      • Mysty beal says:

        No, no – Castronover’s children do not attend Woodmont Elementary, nor does he live near the proposed site. He is a creek, a bridge, and a school district away from what he is complaining about. As far as his concerns re: What about the children?, he sold them out when he and his wife led the charge against the school district bond while his kids attend the oldest elementary school in the district and get to attend the worst middle school in the district – his concerns about the children ring hollow.

        I don’t have a dog in this hunt but the way I see it is that Valley City owns the land, received the permits and will do what they want despite what a few scared legislators, council members and others say. Tony’s job is safe, as it should be because he has done his job,

        There will be requisite pandering by an otherwise aloof council, but I don’t foresee much change in the situation. Conspiracy theories aside, all you have left is to approach this Ken Taylor guy, and I’m guessing he won’t see you. And no, he doesn’t care for your property values, he probably cares for salvaging human beings, which is not congruent with your agenda. Pity. He’s the guy you need to work with, and I don’t believe threats would be the way to go.

        • RedondoRick says:

          Beal, or what ever your name is. Get the facts, read the e-mails, go to council meetings. Learn a little about what your saying before you attack people. And yes, Tony needs to go. He’s run this city into the ground. We need more leadership in this city. Tony doesn’t give us that. Just like most of the city council. I’m tired of being held hostage to this city’s government. Change is needed to bring back the quality of life so deserving of the citizens of Des Moines…Rr

      • BirchCreek says:

        Bea, Can they put the treatment center next to your home? I work in an ER and can uncatagorically tell you that methadone users do back slide, and it is pretty messy when they do. I think it foolish to put this type of environment next to children in a school. This is a big county and there has to be many avaliable properties not near population dense areas with a vulnerable population right next store where the treatment facility can be built. Why is that too much to ask?

      • Help DesMoines says:

        So Bea DaChange, since you think you are so highly educated maybe you can point me in the right direction to obtain this incredible fact that a child is more likely to get hurt at a church than near a Methadone clinic….
        And maybe we weren’t all born with silver spoons, as you obviously were, so in order to live when we are too old to work we work hard to increase the value of our investment, so yes we are going to fight when we are threatened and frankly I doubt anybody in our hood gives a crap about what you think because I’m sure you don’t even live anywhere near us…..

  2. RedondoRick says:

    Again, the idea that the council was “Blindsided” is a hard one to absorb. Dan Brewer, public works director, attends most if not all council meetings. He knew back in October and maybe earlier, that Valley Cities wanted to build a “Health Clinic” on this property. Does he not converse with the council? He’s either holding information from them, which I doubt is the case, or lying. What ever, your city government kept this information quite a while. Giving Ken Taylor (CEO Valley Cities) the chance to get this project up and running. Ken Taylor says, he wants to be a “good neighbor” to the community. He has shown nothing in regards to that! If he wanted to be a good neighbor, he would of address the public of the placing his facility so close to a school and Library. He says he has to much of “HIS” investment into the project. Is that the $5 million allocated by the state, and the $1 million by the King County? Valley Cities says it only has enough money to build one building? Seems to me he’s gambling with the rest of the buildings. One thing you need to know, he’s not faithful. He never has when approaching the city, and the local Representatives. No Ken Taylor, if you really cared for the people and communities, and the children’s lives. You’d work to find an an appropriate location for your business. It is a business no?…Rr

    • Redondo Richie says:

      The assistant city manager is the only one who said “how exciting is this.” No other staff member ever said, yes, this is amazing. Read the emails properly people. come on. you are all being bamboozled by the CC. they are VERY good at deflecting blame. Hired staff simply does what they are told to do by the CITY COUNCIL.

  3. Shirley B. says:

    Boy, I’ve never seen so many whining adults – my goodness you folk are acting like petulant children!
    Your absolute hysteria is laughable – get a hold of yourselves!
    Contrary to your irrational belief, you have to share the world with others. Yes, even the poor, and ill, and addicted, and even those who are *gasp* different – you have to share space. Your ownership of the world ends at your driveways, so stop with the foot-stomping and accept – yes, you have to share. Get over it, you doughy, scared, spoiled babies.

    • Redondo Richie says:

      YES!!!!! Finally some reasoning here. Des Moines residents have been living in this bubble for far too long. There is a world outside, it can sometimes be scary, but its also pretty wonderful too. teach your kids both of those things and all will be good. This facility will open and the world will not end.

      • AB in DM says:

        Correct, the world will not end. But the troubled city of Des Moines will be worse off for it. There are serious second and third-order effects that have yet to materialize. And if past is prolog, further city decay IS coming.

        As we have been saying all along, it is not the facility itself, it is the LOCATION. Your reasoning would have us believe that we will have unicorns prancing around and a constant rainbow over the city, with no ill effects from hardcore drug ADDICTS roaming the streets adjacent to schools/libraries/homes. Pollyanna reasoning.

        Hey Shirley and Richie, I encourage you to follow your own advice and share YOUR space with ill and addicted folks. Have fun with that drama. Out of enlightened self interest, I choose not to, and am unphased by your vague insult that “DM is xenophobic.” Spare us the racist accusations will you.

    • Todd says:

      Shirley and Richie, How kind of you to volunteer City Des Moines as the place to share. Unfortunately the City of Des Moines is BROKE, and I’m sure that the two of you would be more than glad to help if you had the money. Care to contribute? Currently the City needs about $600,000 in additional dollars per year to operate. I’m sure each you has a spare $300K to contribute pulse more to help with the clinic. Isn’t it wonderful how the two you just see rainbows and roses, when City is having to make choices on how stay above water. Simply put we cannot afford it. The City has been declared by State Auditors that we are headed into insolvency if drastic measures are not taken. No one arguing that that this clinic is not needed and worse thing do to an addict is tell he/she their going get something when in reality you cannot afford it. So when you want to get out of your fantasy world and come back to the reality the rest of us live in we would value some input of where is best location for affordably of the clinic should be.

      • Redondo Richie says:

        you are simply complaining.

        Let’s put aside the recovery campus conversation. The way for DM to get out of the mess it is in is to allow for more development, which would bring in more property taxes. cutting more positions will not fix the problem. Being a sleepy bedroom community without commercial development will only last for so long (just look at Normandy Park, and they have a higher tax base at least). The business park/FAA was an amazing get for this city. Light rail/transit oriented development is great, but won’t come instantly. Allowing developers to build taller, but higher quality (yes, design standards!), buildings in our downtown is a MUST. these type of things will get DM out of the mess. Not simply complaining about what is wrong. Instead, start getting involved in the decisions that really matter…

        • BirchCreek says:

          I believe is it short sited to want to build higher density/taller buildings in the “Downtown”/Marina district. Everyone who pushes this seems to miss the fact that there is NO easy access on and off of Marine View Drive! There are only 2 lane roads that can not be widened. The infrastructure is just not there! It makes just about as much sense as putting a Columbia tower on Redondo Beach, North Hill or The Cove at Normandy Park. You have to have well thought out planning, not knee jerk reactions. I would say develop Pac Hwy to the max. The road access, bus access and light rail are and will be there as well and esay access to I-5!
          Why this fixation with over developing the Marina district is beyond me.

          • Redondo Richie says:

            seriously the Columbia tower in Redondo? that is a stretch beyond stretches. We are talking actually allowing development in the downtown. right now people are not developing there because they cannot make money on the developments. I am not a developer, btw. I am someone who appreciates a really amazing, livable, pedestrian friendly downtown. DM can get there, but you have to allow the development to happen first. The people come first, then the commercial/retail. then you have a great place that people want to hang out. Right now its a dud. A sad, depressing, dud. the fault it the citizens. they have not wanted more. they are ok with the dud. Pac Hwy will always be a freeway. it will never be a nice, walkable, pedestrian friendly downtown. This is what I am talking about. Do you even know the difference? Look it up. google is amazing that way. 10-15′ in height will not kill the downtown, it will help to make it great. not allowing it will keep it a dud. sadly.

      • Redondo Richie says:

        Btw, in the end the financial situation of the city has nothing to do with the recovery campus. They bought a piece of property that was zoned for the use. they had the rights to do so. They city has the right to also rezone more property for commercial uses and increase the potential for commercial property taxes in the city. The end is not near people. The Puget Sound region is growing. Nobody can stop that. DM is not immune to the growth. However, the City Council needs to starting thinking outside the status quo box and do it the right way instead of always being reactionary.

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