After hearing several people speak against it, Lynnwood City Councilmembers last week defended their decision to place a six-month moratorium on accepting applications for substance abuse clinics.
Councilmembers approved the moratorium in April 2023 using an emergency ordinance, which under city code requires a public hearing within 60 days. Officials said it was a temporary measure that would give the city time to develop new laws to manage substance abuse facilities in Lynnwood. The council action came after the department received an application for a new clinic following vocal opposition to an opioid treatment facility that opened in January.
No public commenters spoke in favor of the moratorium and most spoke against it during the council’s June 12 business meeting. Those who did not state their disapproval criticized the length of the moratorium, saying that developing new regulations around substance abuse facilities would not require six months.
Robert Leutwyler, a candidate for Lynnwood City Council Position 7, said that the moratorium’s existence proved that drug treatment facilities were stigmatized, a notion echoed in other commenters’ statements.
Washington State 32nd District Rep. Lauren Davis also attended the public hearing to voice her disapproval.
“I’m here with a bit of a broken heart tonight to come home to a city that I represent and the irony of coming here to speak on a council item titled ‘Moratorium on the Acceptance of Substance Abuse Clinic Applications’ in the middle of a raging opioid epidemic,” Davis said. It’s an epidemic that is “ripping parents from their children and children from their parents, that’s driving child welfare cases, that’s driving everything that you hear about that the people of Lynnwood would like you to act on: homelessness, crime. And the way to address that is treatment,” she continued.
Davis later mentioned that she believed Lynnwood’s moratorium would no longer be legal under recently passed state legislation. That’s something that city officials have weighed, but they say that zoning regulations need to be evaluated from a legal and development perspective.
Following public comment, Community Planning Manager Karl Algren said that Lynnwood’s Department of Development and Business Services, which is responsible for managing zoning regulations, would be considering these public statements. While a public hearing is required, the council doesn’t need to take additional action prior to the end of the moratorium.
Councilmembers Patrick Decker and Jim Smith, along with Council President Shannon Sessions, stated their belief that the council took the proper steps when creating the moratorium. Decker claimed that the Acadia treatment facility was actively looking for patients, and those vacancies were evidence that Lynnwood residents seeking treatment have access to it. Sessions reminded attendees that the council approved the moratorium because the Acadia clinic was sited without council knowledge or input and they were caught off guard. The pause on accepting applications would give them time to develop legislation to avoid this in the future, she added.
In a separate public hearing, councilmembers also heard from concerned residents of an apartment complex being considered for redevelopment as part of the 2023 Lynnwood Comprehensive Plan. The Housing Authority of Snohomish County (HASCO) has proposed rezoning an area of Lynnwood so that it can redevelop two apartment buildings into a complex with more units.
Some residents referenced HASCO’s Whispering Pines apartment complex redevelopment that displaced many renters in 2021, adding they were concerned that they would also be forced to leave their homes. A HASCO representative said that the housing authority has plans for easing the burden of those required to move, including assisting those displaced with finding new places to live and providing financial assistance with moving costs. Council Vice President Altamirano-Crosby reinforced the need for translation services so that all tenants would have access to that assistance.
This portion of the Lynnwood Comprehensive Plan does not solidify that the changes requested by HASCO will occur, merely that the item will be considered in future discussions.
In other business, the council also approved a proposed gun buyback event for Lynnwood residents.
The council unanimously approved the use of $15,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to host a gun buyback event. Lynnwood Police Deputy Chief Cole Langdon brought the idea to councilmembers in a previous work session, saying that the one-time event would give owners of unused firearms an opportunity to exchange them for gift cards worth $25 to $250. Additionally, the department received gun locks from Project ChildSafe, which it plans to distribute for free at the event, along with educational gun safety brochures.
The goal of the program is to promote gun safety and incentivize the responsible surrender of unused firearms.
A public commenter earlier mentioned that guns could be built at home and it was confirmed by Langdon that this had already been accounted for in the program’s stipulations; Homemade guns will be accepted for turn-in but will not receive a gift card.
The council also unanimously approved a request from the Lynnwood Public Works Department to rename a small frontage road west of Wilcox Park to 196th Place SW. The request came after local business owners reported that the road’s previous name, shared with 196th Street SW, caused confusion for customers.
Finally, the council made proclamations acknowledging Pride Month and Juneteenth.
— y Jasmine Contreras-Lewis