A south-facing view of the proposed site for a new mental health facility on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, near 300th Street NW and 80th Avenue NW north of Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

A south-facing view of the proposed site for a new mental health facility on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, near 300th Street NW and 80th Avenue NW north of Stanwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

County Council OK’s Stanwood behavioral health center

After an unsuccessful appeal to block it, the Tulalip Tribes are now on the cusp of building the 32-bed center in farmland.

STANWOOD — For years, the Tulalip Tribes have been working toward a 32-bed behavioral health facility near Stanwood.

The Snohomish County Council helped them to clear a final hurdle for it to move forward this month.

To operate, the center needs a conditional land use permit, which was granted by Hearing Examiner Peter Camp on March 7 but later appealed by neighbors. On May 17, the County Council approved a motion to uphold Camp’s decision granting the permit.

In a statement, Tulalip Chair Teri Gobin said the tribes were pleased with the approval, noting the facility will be operated by the state of Washington.

“This facility will have a positive impact for all those living in Snohomish County, as many of our residents are in dire need of mental health services,” Gobin said. “Mental health is a community issue, and we will continue to try and help those in need of help, whether that be within our community or outside.”

However, the appellants have until June 7 to appeal the County Council’s decision to Superior Court. No appeals had been filed as of this week.

In 2020, the Tulalip Tribes committed to building the $35 million treatment center as part of a revenue-sharing compact with the state and county. The deal gives the tribes a portion of the state’s millions of dollars in sales tax collections from the Quil Ceda Village shopping center.

The treatment center, set to be located at the southeast corner of 300th Street NW and 80th Avenue NW, will convert an old Arabian horse barn into two 16-bed buildings. It is projected to employ 50 full-time staff who would tend to involuntarily admitted patients for 90 or 180 days. The site is just north of Stanwood’s city limits.

The proposed center received pushback from locals and drew dozens in for hours of public hearings. People raised common concerns, emphasizing the necessity of psychiatric help but condemning the proposed location.

Neighbors in the rural swath of land formed North Stanwood Concerned Citizens, a group to oppose the treatment center’s location. The group argued the center would bring too much traffic into a rural area, pose safety threats and raise taxes.

Proponents for the location argued that the rural area is an “ideal setting for healing” and that space for psychiatric patients is desperately needed.

To help satisfy the neighbor’s concerns, Camp set parameters on the project.

This map shows the proposed site for a new mental health facility (in red) at the corner of 80th Avenue NW and 300th Street NW, north of the city of Stanwood. (Snohomish County Planning & Development Services)

This map shows the proposed site for a new mental health facility (in red) at the corner of 80th Avenue NW and 300th Street NW, north of the city of Stanwood. (Snohomish County Planning & Development Services)

Patients would need a clear discharge plan to leave, detailing how they will arrive at their “next residence” instead of just walking away from the center into the surrounding neighborhood. In his decision, Camp wrote that “fenced areas will be secured without looking like a prison.” The buildings will also have sloped metal roofs and siding to match the existing homes and agricultural buildings in the area.

On March 21, eight neighbors filed an appeal against Camp’s decision to grant the conditional permit, pushing the matter to the Snohomish County Council. There was a closed record appeal hearing — where little to no new evidence could be presented — May 10.

A week later, the County Council approved the motion to affirm Camp’s decision in a 4-0 vote. Council member Nate Nehring recused himself from the vote after voicing concern about the location.

“Consistent with the appearance of fairness doctrine, I am recusing myself from this matter,” he wrote in a March 27 letter.

Throughout the process, Stanwood resident Kandyce Hansen has voiced concerns about the center’s location. In a recent interview with The Daily Herald, she maintained those concerns, but looking forward, she hopes for the best.

“It’s not a safe location for it. That was always my comment, and I’m still sticking to it,” Hansen said. “It needs to be closer to mental hospitals and facilities that can get there in a timely manner.”

“But I do hope it’s successful,” Hansen continued. “We want the best for every person — to reach their goals for health and life. I just want them to get healthy.”

The Tulalip Tribes are waiting to ensure no further appeals are filed, before taking the next steps.

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; kayla.dunn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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