Camas City Council Signals Support for Strict Limits on Location of Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facilities

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City of Camas officials expressed unanimous support for a code amendment that will significantly limit the location of future residential drug and alcohol treatment facilities within city limits.

On May 2, the Camas City Council held a public hearing on a list of annual code amendments intended to correct or clarify parts of the city’s municipal codes.

This year’s annual code change bill includes a proposal that would prohibit future residential drug treatment facilities from operating in single-family residential areas of the city and create a 1,000-foot “buffer zone” between new facilities and private and public schools, public parks, public libraries and similar processing facilities.

The amendment also imposes zoning restrictions on sober housing and transitional housing intended to assist people in their addiction recovery efforts (sober living houses) and to help homeless people transition into a stable housing (transitional housing).

Despite more than a year of often heated community outcry — and a failed lawsuit against the city — over a private company’s plan to operate a 15-bed drug and alcohol rehabilitation center near the school primary Dorothy Fox in the Prune Hill neighborhood of Camas, the May 2 public hearing elicited no public comment and no discussion among city council members.

An earlier attempt by the Camas Planning Commission to create regulations was scuttled after city attorneys said the proposal would likely violate federal and state laws, including the federal Fair Housing Act, which considers people who are recovering from drug or alcohol addiction as a protected class under federal law. Americans with Disabilities Act.

When the commission returned to the subject on April 19, city staff recommended that the planning commission de-link sober homes from the proposed definition of a residential treatment facility.

Under the proposal approved by planning commissioners on April 19 – and by city councilors last week – low-cost homes and transitional housing would be permitted in single-family and multi-family residential areas and have conditional uses in city ​​neighborhood commercial areas. Sober homes would also be permitted in downtown commercial, community commercial and mixed-use areas.

The code amendment approved by the planning commission and city council members would prohibit new residential treatment facilities in single-family residential neighborhoods or within 1,000 feet of public and private schools, public parks, public libraries, other residential treatment facilities or similar uses.

The new code amendment would also prohibit residential treatment facilities from light industrial areas, business parks and heavy industrial areas of the city, but it would allow them outright in downtown, community and regional commercial areas. and with a conditional use permit in the multi-family residence of Camas. and local shopping areas. But they would still be required to abide by the 1,000 foot buffer rule.

At least one member of the Camas Planning Commission said during the April 19 hearing that he had concerns that the code amendment may be too restrictive.

“With everything we’re trying to do, it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of places left,” Commissioner Mahsa Eshghi said.

Noting that the proposed zoning and the 1,000 foot buffer appeared to leave few areas in the city that would allow for a residential treatment facility, Eshghi asked if the planning commission was creating a situation that truly allowed for the siting of treatment facilities. residential treatment in Camas. “Is it really doable? asked Eshghi.

Camas planning director Robert Maul responded that residential treatment facilities would still be allowed to apply for a conditional use permit in multi-family areas and told planning commissioners they could always reconsider the area. 1,000 foot buffer.

According to city planner Madeline Sutherland, Camas would be one of only three jurisdictions in Washington to create a buffer zone between residential treatment facilities and public facilities such as schools, parks and libraries.

“The residential treatment facility is a bit more commercial in nature than a sober living house,” Sutherland told councilors. “That’s why we can regulate it a bit more.”

In the end, the planning commissioners decided to stick with the 1,000 foot buffer zone and updated the zoning restrictions for residential treatment facilities.

“There is a moral and ethical significance (to this issue) that does not occur in planning commission meetings,” Camas Planning Commission member Joe Walsh said during the public hearing of the April 19. “We have all struggled with this. … I would be shocked if any of my fellow commissioners didn’t know someone who struggled with addiction issues. … (We try to be) empathetic while being rational.

The council is expected to formalize its support for the code change relating to residential treatment facilities and sober homes later this month.

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