At its work session Sept. 19, the Lynnwood City Council heard an update on revisions to the city’s essential public facility policy.
Following public outcry over an Acadia opioid treatment center that was opened near the Alderwood Boys and Girls Club in January, the council tasked Lynnwood’s Business and Development Services Department to determine what legislative actions it could take to manage drug abuse treatment facilities. Meanwhile, the council placed a moratorium on the opening of new treatment centers.
During controversy about Acadia’s facility, many community complaints stemmed from a lack of transparency from the company and the short notice provided by its outreach staff. Councilmembers were limited in what actions they could take and said they were blindsided by the first public hearing, which was held during the busy holiday season about a month and a half prior to the clinic’s opening.
Community Planning Manager Karl Almgren has made presentations to the council numerous times over the past few months– most recently in August— to provide context and updates on the task. Almgren is scheduled to present at next week’s council meeting a draft ordinance that complies with new state zoning legislation.
Essential public facilities (EPFs) are category of necessary facilities that can be difficult to site, such as airports, waste management facilities and schools. By law, EPFs are equal so they cannot be treated differently from one another. Under new state legislation responding to the opioid epidemic, opioid treatment programs are now classified as EPFs. City leadership cannot prevent their operations.
Lynnwood Department of Development and Business Services Director David Kleitsch joined Almgren to present a draft ordinance about EPFs, which passed the planning commission and now requires council review. This ordinance separates EPFs into state and city facilities.
According to Almgren, the proposed policy has three goals: to increase communication with the community and Lynnwood leadership, to adhere to new state laws introduced during the 2023 Legislative session and to make it easier for EPF applicants to know what they must do.
Under the proposed procedure, EPFs listed in state but not local legislation would trigger additional communication requirements for applicants looking to locate in Lynnwood. Applications for new EPFs will include a question about an establishment’s purpose at the very beginning of the paperwork to expedite information about city facilities to the council for its consideration. Later in the process, Lynnwood staff will schedule a public hearing with the applicants, giving at least 20 days notice.
Councilmember George Hurst said that he was concerned about distinguishing EPFs as state or local and believed all EPFs could be reviewed by the council. Kleitsch responded that the distinction was made to increase communication about specific projects. Almgren clarified that the department actually receives many EPF applications.
To gather community feedback on the draft ordinance –which can be read here–, the council will be holding a public hearing during its next business meeting on Sept. 25.
Almgren also made a presentation about the city’s future annexation plans. The council recently heard from a public commenter who requested that what is being unofficially referred to as the “Meadowdale neighborhood”– a residential area containing 47 homes located near the southern boundary of Meadowdale Beach Park– be removed from the Lynnwood Municipal Urban Growth Area,
The growth area itself is a portion of land appropriated by Snohomish County for use in Lynnwood’s future expansion plans. More than 60% of the homeowners in the currently unincorporated area recently signed a petition seeking annexation by the City of Edmonds.
The Edmonds City Council recently passed a resolution asking the county to change its growth management plans to move the area to the Edmonds Municipal Urban Growth Area. Almgren explained that agreeing to cede the area to Edmonds would not automatically begin the annexation, and referred to the action as a “prequel to annexation.”
When the issue was brought to the Lynnwood City Council on Monday, reception varied.
Councilmember Jim Smith put up the most resistance to the idea, saying that he believed there was no direct path to the area from Edmonds and so the maintenance on roads and other nearby areas would fall on Lynnwood, among other items.
Council President Shannon Sessions strongly supported allowing the neighborhood to be annexed by Edmonds. She said that she grew up in that area, and it was always considered Edmonds and aligned more culturally with Edmonds than Lynnwood.
Hurst requested that any conversations with the City of Edmonds also include a discussion about another portion of undeveloped land that is under consideration for use by Lynnwood’s future waste management facility.
Later, Almgren was asked to research the matter more thoroughly, as it was apparent that there was more history and nuance with the situation than they were equipped to discuss.
In other business, a presentation by the Parks and Recreation Department Deputy Director Sarah Olson listed several future projects under consideration for ParksLove. In 2021, Lynnwood’s ParksLove project was awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Recreation & Park Association’s resilient park access program in order to make parks more equitable and accessible.
One aim of the project is to allow all residents access to a park within a 10-minute walk of their location. The parks department has undergone several public outreach campaigns and area studies to compile a list of its priorities.
Olson spoke about several planned improvements, including adding fitness stations to some areas, lighting at dog parks, play equipment, picnic tables, new walking routes and many other items, depending on the park being evaluated. Some other projects under consideration are here and more information about the ParksLove project are on the city website.
While costs for such improvements are not listed, they are under consideration and department employees are continually looking for new funding sources like grants, Olson said.
The council met new Human Services Coordinator Kyle Ward, who was hired for the position in July. Several councilmembers said they’d seen Ward at many community events and were glad to see him taking early action in his role.
During mayor and council comments, Mayor Christine Frizzell and Councilmembers Hurst and Josh Binda spoke to acknowledge a recent $1.75 million settlement between the City of Lynnwood and the estate of Tirhas Tesfatsion. Tesfatsion died by suicide in Lynnwood Jail following a breach of protocol in which she was not checked on as she was supposed to be
Frizzell read a statement acknowledging the tragedy, the damage it caused and about the city’s intent to improve in the future by raising awareness and improving training.
Hurst quoted the estate’s attorney:
“This was not the City of Lynnwood’s best moment but we are hopeful that from this point forward, the City of Lynnwood will be better than that tragic day. Our system of justice demands that we treat people humanely and that includes those who are incarcerated. The agreement to additional training is to make sure that those that work in the jail are up to date on doing what is needed to protect life.” Hurst added that he was confident that newly appointed Police Chief Cole Langdon would hold the police department to a high standard.
Binda said that he was glad the family was finally compensated for their loss, though no amount of money could replace Tesfatsion’s life. He added that it was important that people work to make larger, systemic changes.
–By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis