City attorneys: Methadone clinics should be allowed downtown

The Planning Commission will discuss, and may vote on, the issue during Tuesday’s meeting.

EVERETT — The city of Everett no longer can use zoning to keep methadone clinics out of downtown, according to new advice from its lawyers.

People recovering from addiction are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means methadone clinics providing them treatment must be zoned the same as any other medical building, Deputy City Attorney David Hall wrote in a recent memo.

The topic is scheduled for discussion at the Planning Commission at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The commission may vote to make a recommendation to the City Council for action. The meeting follows a public hearing last month that lasted more than 2 1/2 hours.

Everett has just one methadone clinic, on Evergreen Way near Holly Drive. It’s operated by Therapeutic Health Services, a Seattle-area nonprofit. THS has been trying to open another clinic in Everett’s north end, but a zoning change is needed to make that happen. Everett’s current rules allow only one methadone clinic in town. That policy has been under debate for months now, which prompted the new legal review.

Supporters of adding another clinic say that increasing treatment options is an important way to battle opioid problems. Detractors include many downtown business owners. They say the concentration of social services in the city core brings in clientele who cause problems for their shoppers and patrons.

Earlier this year, Mayor Ray Stephanson wrote letters to Snohomish County, the city of Marysville and the Tulalip Tribes, asking them to pick up their “fair share” of social services. There are just two other methadone clinics in the county, in Arlington and in Bothell’s Canyon Park area. The state and the county agree a fourth clinic is needed.

For Tuesday night’s meeting, city staff offered several options. They recommended removing any zoning language specific to addiction treatment.

Everett also could prohibit all new medical clinics in its Central Business District, or ban them from the ground floors of retail areas, according to an internal memo. However, neither option is likely to be popular, it says.

A THS spokesman declined to comment on the new legal opinion. The organization hasn’t heard about it from the city directly, he said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;; Twitter: @rikkiking.

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