As an architect with over 30 years in practice, I can speak with some confidence about zoning codes and use matters.
The Pierce County zoning code works this way: In a particular zone, a specific use is either permitted, not permitted, or conditionally permitted. The No on HRC group contends that the county has mis-categorized the HRC to allow it in a rural residential planning zone (R10). No matter how it is categorized, HRC would not be a permitted use in the R10 zone. At best, it could only be conditionally permitted. So, the use categorization and zoning are in dispute.
The county initially categorized the HRC as a Community and Cultural Services use. This category includes such things as library, museum, art gallery, and homeless shelter uses. As a 50-bed, two story, 33,000 square foot, health services facility with a 65-car parking lot, the proposed use is nothing like the others in the Community and Cultural Services category. Hence, the formal appeal by No on HRC. The HRC conditional use permit application is on hold until the county hearing examiner either denies or approves the formal appeal.
County records note that in a meeting between the county and HRC in December of 2016, “The applicant anticipate(s) the need for a doctor or physician’s assistant to be on-site approximately 20 hours per week to administer medication to clients.” Nothing in HRC’s subsequent CUP application has altered this. HRC founder Jeremiah Saucier has publicly referred to HRC as a “hub,” which is a reference to the Washington State Hub and Spoke Project that “offers a medication assisted treatment component to all patients seeking services for opioid use disorders.”
HRC must be licensed by the state as a residential treatment facility. The state licenses RTFs to provide “health care services to persons with mental disorders or substance use disorders.” No on HRC rightly says that HRC will be providing health services.
The Pierce County zoning code has a specific use category for such a facility. It is plainly called “Health Services.” Per the code, “Health Services Use Type refers to any health-related facilities,” and that is how HRC should be categorized. In the Key Peninsula Community Plan area, a Health Services use like the HRC would not be permitted anywhere on the Key Peninsula and could only be conditionally permitted in the Rural Activity Center or Rural Neighborhood Center zones.
Alcohol and drug treatment centers are necessary. Nearly everyone’s life is somehow touched by substance use disorder. We opposing the HRC are not heartless. Good, reasonable people can disagree. Given its size, scope and use, we simply don’t believe the HRC belongs where it’s being proposed.
Kim Quon, Lakebay