The McCleary city council isn’t finding the answer it’s looking for in proposed zoning code updates.
With a potential mental health facility set to go into the old Mark Reed Hospital facility — which abuts a residential zone — the council had hoped to adjust municipal code to either prevent the new potential facility or keep any other similar facilities from being built in the future.
The council was presented with drafts of potential zoning changes, however more details were presented than requested. Those extra details were more than the council was willing to change during its meeting on March 8.
While the council agreed to hold off on changes during the March 8 meeting, members still planned to make changes to zoning as soon as possible.
“We’re going to have to deal with the residential treatment facilities,” Councilwoman Pam Ator said. “Do we want residential treatment facilities in the city of McCleary? If we do not, we need to put that in whatever law we have.”
Instead of adjourning the meeting, the council recessed the meeting. Members had planned to meet for a workshop on March 15, and the meeting will reconvene from the recess so the council can take action if an appropriate draft is brought forward. The Vidette had gone to press before that workshop.
The biggest issue the council is hoping to address is defining residential treatment facility in city code and determining how long a building can sit idle before a new permit needs to be issued.
Currently, the city’s municipal code says a building can sit idle for five years before a new permit must be issued. The council was hoping to adjust that zoning code to three years. There was some discussion of reducing that number to one year, but Councilwoman Brenda Orffer expressed concern that one year was not enough time for most projects, and three years became the aim.
Defining “residential treatment facility” in city code is imperative, McCleary’s mayor Brent Schiller said.
“Right now we have no definition. If they move in right now, we’re a sitting duck. We need to make a decision of how we want to move forward,” Schiller said. “We’re running out of time. What do we want to do?”
Councilman Dustin Richey seemed opposed to the potential mental health facility overall. The building is owned by Grays Harbor Hospital District 1.
“If they really thought this was such a great thing, you’d think they’d find a way (to bring services to Elma),” Richey said, referring to Summit Pacific Medical Center and its upcoming expansion.
Joy Iversen, a resident who routinely attends city council meetings and works for Summit Pacific, asked the council to wait for a presentation from hospital administration before making a decision.
“I’m concerned about what happens to that building on the hill, but I’m also concerned about it sitting empty,” Iversen said. “I understand the fears about what’s going to be up there. But next meeting (representatives) are coming to speak… and if decisions are made before they even come to speak then you aren’t hearing all sides of the issues.
“I would just ask that you hear all sides of the issue.”
Hospital district administration are set to present to the council on March 22.
The council and mayor both expressed their frustrations that hospital representatives had been scheduled to present to the council earlier in the year but did not attend.
A $2 million Department of Commerce grant was received by Great Rivers Behavioral Health, and a 16-bed in-patient facility for short-term psychiatric patients could open at the Old Mark Reed Hospital in McCleary as early as September 2017.