Opponents of a proposed drug rehabilitation facility in Camas’ Prune Hill neighborhood are challenging a recent hearings examiner decision granting the facility a conditional-use permit.
Camas Hearings Examiner Joe Turner ruled in favor of the Discover Recover substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation center’s conditional-use permit on April 28, paving the way for Discover Recovery’s owners to convert the former Fairgate Estate assisted living center into a 15-bed rehabilitation center geared toward working professionals seeking help for substance abuse disorders.
The 2.39-acre Fairgate Estate property is located next to the Dorothy Fox Elementary School, the city of Camas’ Dorothy Fox Park and the Harvest Community Church at 2213 N.W. 23rd Ave. is located in a residential area intended for single-family homes. It also allows for a variety conditional uses including “nursing, rest or convalescent homes.”
Discover Recovery, a company which has operated a 40-bed inpatient drug rehabilitation and treatment center in Long Beach, Washington since 2018, applied for the conditional use permit on January 21.
By February’s end, hundreds of Prune Hills neighbors had joined online to oppose the rehabilitation facility. The Dorothy Fox Safety Alliance was formed and they signed a petition against the placement of a drug. rehabPrune Hill, raise more than $5,000 on GoFundMe for an appeal if Turner rules in favor of the Discover Recovery conditional use permit.
At a March 24 public hearing before Turner, dozens of Prune Hill residents urged the hearings examiner to deny Discover Recovery’s permit based on a city requirement that the proposed conditional use “not be materially detrimental to the public welfare.”
Many opponents expressed concern that Discover Recovery patients might leave without medical advice and interact directly with children at a nearby park, church, or elementary school.
Turner was informed by Brian Lewellan on March 24, that he is a pro bono lawyer representing the Dorothy Fox Safety Alliance. “no one with any common sense would site that center right next to an elementary school.”
On May 12, Lewellan filed a petition for reconsideration on behalf of the Dorothy Fox Safety Alliance, arguing Discover Recovery’s permit should be reconsidered and denied for three main reasons: that the proposed use is “materially detrimental to public welfare;” that Turner’s final order “relies on speculative and unsubstantiated assertions and conclusions, which are not grounded in facts presented in the record;” and because Turner’s decision “uses improper or invalid tests to exclude or otherwise discount evidence presented by (the Safety Alliance) and others.”
Turner ruled in April that the opponents who spoke at the March hearing — many of whom said they worried patients at the 15-bed rehabilitation center would harm children at the nearby elementary school or at the Harvest church’s preschool — provided “speculative or unsubstantiated concerns”These were irrelevant to his consideration for the conditional-use permit.
Lewellan argued, however in his petition to reconsideration, the concerns expressed by members the Dorothy Park Safety Alliance during the March hearing before Turner were unfounded “grounded in truth and based upon specific events that actually happened.”
“DFSA’s concerns about citing the detox center next to a school, park, church and homes are neither unsubstantiated nor generalized,”Lewellan is the one who argues in this petition. “DFSA presented the Hearings Examiner with numerous and specifically documented cases where intoxicated, suicidal and mentally ill patients fled Discover Recovery’s other detox center without notice, with or without their belongings, for whatever reason at any time of day or night. Those are not generalized or unsubstantiated fears. Those events happened. … They are not based on common displeasure for detox centers or some whimsically implausible story of impending doom. These things happened and there is no condition that can be placed on this conditional use permit (to keep it) from happening in the future, if approved.”
Turner’s final order set several conditions for the conditional-use permit, including: building a 6-foot solid fence around the property; installing staff-monitored security cameras; designating an outdoor patient-use area within the fenced portion of the site; using no more than six of the 15 beds for “subacute detoxification services;” prohibiting Level 4 detoxification — the highest level of drug detoxification, which includes 24-hour treatment and a high level of medical monitoring; requiring staff to have 24-hour surveillance of all patients and perform routine bed checks at 30-minute intervals; requiring patients undergo criminal background checks prior to being admitted; prohibiting registered sex offenders or any patient who has been convicted of a violent crime from receiving treatment at the facility; and not providing court-mandated treatment.
For the conditional-use permit to be maintained, Discover Recovery must also produce an annual Report to the City of Camas for the first three Years. This report will include a brief description of all discharges against medical advice and any safety measures used at or police incidents. Also, representatives from the Camas Schools District, Harvest Community Church (located right next to Fairgate Estate), and three designated Neighborhood Representatives meet on an Annual basis to discuss the reports and address safety concerns.
Turner declared that patients at the Discover Recovery Center will not be allowed outside the facility. “without direct staff supervision” and that the center’s staff must immediately report any patient who has left the facility against treatment advice to the Camas Police Department.
Thomas Feldman, one of the owners of Discover Recovery who plans to relocate his young family to Southwest Washington soon, told the Post-Record in early May that he believed Turner’s decision was “very thorough”We had no hesitation in complying with all the terms of the agreement.
In the Dorothy Fox Safety Alliance’s petition for reconsideration, Lewellan listed 11 supplemental conditions opponents believe should be added to the Discover Recovery conditional-use permit, if Turner rejects the petition for reconsideration, including:
o Creating and maintaining an emergency notification system that uses text to notify residents if a patient leaves the area without being supervised or under medical advice.
o Meetings on a quarterly basis with representatives from the neighborhood, city, and school districts
o Providing the number patients who would need to leave the city against medical advice would revoke your conditional-use permit.
o Defining the security system to be used;
o Requiring discovery recovery to pay for or provide “a properly trained security guard to be stationed on the sidewalk in front of the detox facility location during times of the day when schoolchildren are walking to and from Dorothy Fox Elementary;”
o Installing a motion detector or other device to notify nearby residents and staff “that a patient has breached the fence line;”
o Clarification that the facility will not admit patients convicted of sexual misconduct, indecent exposure, resisting arrest, solicitation, prostitution, sex trafficking, rape, attempted rape, domestic violence, interpersonal violence, intimate partner violence, domestic battery, sexual assault or battery, child abuse, menacing, robbery, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, manslaughter, assault and/or murder” or patients who have existing protective or restraining orders against them;
o Designating a third-party independent medical administrator “periodically review medical charts, contents of patients’ background checks, Washington State Department of Health records”Additional information about the first three years of operation.
o The facility must notify residents nearby “of the times and locations of all off-site field trips,”That supervised field trip with patients “should not occur shortly before or after school when children are walking to and from Dorothy Fox Elementary;”
o Providing for “properly trained security guard to be onsite 24 hours a day, seven days a week;”
O “Reimbursing nearby residents for the costs associated with purchasing and installing privacy film on their windows,” as Fairgate Estate rooms “look directly into some homes’ bedrooms and common living areas.”
Opponents call for city council to be removed ‘There’s one group who could make all the difference, but they’ve been absolutely silent’
Lewellan, an environmental litigation attorney, told the Post-Record this week that he decided to take the Dorothy Fox Safety Alliance’s fight on pro bono after seeing a man pulling up “No Detox Near Dorothy Fox”While walking his son from the elementary school to home this winter, signs were made.
“I didn’t have a petition on the detox center one way or another,” Lewellan said, “but then I saw someone was taking away people’s rights to speak their minds. I went on Nextdoor and there were people on there saying they were looking for a lawyer, that, ‘Please, we’re just a bunch of citizens who want to speak up for our rights,’ and I thought, ‘Yeah, someone does need to speak up and help.’ So I reached out to the person who was the head of the Alliance and said, ‘If you’re still looking for a lawyer, I’ll do it for free.”
Lewellan describes the Safety Alliance which collected more than 1,500 signatures against the establishment of the Discover Recovery Center near an elementary school as “a small group of citizens … who know we’re up against a developer who paid over $2 million for that property … and who know the chips are stacked against us.”
The attorney said many Safety Alliance neighbors believe there are a group of people who could help them in their fight to stop the drug rehabilitation facility from coming into the Prune Hill location — and that is the Camas City Council.
“They’re the one group who could make all the difference,” Lewellan said, “but, so far, they have been absolutely silent in this fight. They’ve written the code this way … and then said they weren’t going to adjudicate it and sent it to (the Hearings Examiner). They have been silent when we need them to speak on our behalf. And their silence is deafening.”
Lewellan added that some of the elected officials on the city council have said they have been instructed by the city’s attorney to not say anything while the matter is still being decided by the hearings examiner and — if the opponents decide to push the matter even further — by a state superior court judge.
“That’s shocking to me because I thought, when they took the oath of office to represent our city, that the primary purpose and function of their positions was to protect the security of their citizens,” Lewellan said. “But no, the No. 1 priority is to make sure they protect themselves.”
The attorney stated that he believes Dorothy Fox Safety Alliance members will eventually bring the issue regarding conditional-use permits for similar drug treatment centers to the city council.
“I suspect we will want to make sure this situation doesn’t happen again,” Lewellan said.
Sarah Fox, Camas Senior Planner, said that the city would allow similar facilities to be built without a conditional use permit in several zones including multi-family and commercial areas, downtown commercial, and community commercial zones. The facility would be permitted in other areas with a conditional use permit. Only one zone, the city’s industrial zone, would not allow the facility, Fox said during the March hearing.
Many of the opponents claimed they would like to see Camas have a drug treatment center, but none of them have indicated specific areas that might be suitable for a small, holistic rehabilitation and treatment center for professionals, such as the one Discover Recovery proposed at Fairgate Estate.
“I believe there’s a real opportunity for public-private cooperation here, and to site (a drug rehabilitation center) in a place that makes sense for their business and is also right for the citizens of Camas,”Lewellan spoke this week. “Those two outcomes, however, are not possible when it’s sited right next to an elementary school.”
Turner has 45 days to issue a decision on the opponents’ request for reconsideration.
Feldman, of Discover Recovery, did not respond to the Post-Record’s request for comment in time for this paper’s deadline.