Guest Column: Keep the KP Rural - No HRC


Caleb Lystad, Guest Columnist

What is the Key Peninsula? A few things come to mind: rural, beautiful, quiet, spacious, private, overlooked; a strong community rooted in old school, neighborly virtues.

These special traits were recognized by those who worked to develop the Key Peninsula Comprehensive Plan as part of the Growth Management Act adopted in 2007. The stated goal of the plan is to protect the rural nature of the KP while providing a framework for responsible development and growth. 

The plan defines land use zones, such as Rural-10, Rural Farm, Rural Sensitive Resources, and Parks and Recreation. Additionally, the plan recognizes the historical commercial centers that have dotted the KP for decades. These are Rural Activity Centers, where more intensive commercial development has taken place, and Rural Neighborhood Centers, where less intensive commercial development has taken place. The plan strives to keep the rural environment of the Key Peninsula intact while providing a means for future growth that does not encroach on the rural landscape. 

Enter Hope Recovery Center, the dream of a man to provide substance abuse and behavior health treatment. A most laudable endeavor, to be sure. The dream began to take shape when Lakebay Community Church offered HRC a piece of land where they had once intended to build a church. This property is situated in an R10 zone. 

The zoning plan for the KP allows for “community and cultural” development within R10s when certain conditions are met. This is all well and good. We need churches, schools, civic centers, halls and other facilities that foster and strengthen the fabric of our community.

According to HRC, they met with Pierce County to discuss building a residential inpatient treatment facility and encountered resistance. They were told health services were not allowed in R10 zones. This is the most crucial point to the HRC story. 

HRC is first and foremost a health service, therefore not allowed to build in an R10. The 33,000 total square foot campus, including the primary 50-bed facility, cannot be built in an R10. But that didn’t stop the dream. 

HRC said they managed to get an audience with the county planning manager and the assistant administrator to the Planning and Land Services director—a very rare meeting with the very top levels of county planning. HRC also said that even here their plan was met with significant pushback: Health services are not allowed in R10. However, the meeting was also attended by Derek Young, our local Pierce County Council member. According to him, it was his office that provided the workaround. 

Instead of focusing on what HRC is, a health service, Derek proposed the county should consider what the impact would be compared to a facility that could be built there. In this way it was determined that HRC would have an impact similar to a homeless shelter and since a homeless shelter does fit within the zoning laws, Pierce County allowed the conditional use permit process to proceed. In this way clear zoning laws were ignored. 

No On HRC was formed to stop this breach of due process. Rights of every landowner on the Key Peninsula were violated by these actions. By ignoring the clear language of our zoning laws, and using elected officials to pressure the county, we lost fundamental protections that safeguard our community from intrusive development. 

No On HRC contends that HRC fails to meet the basic intentions defined under Pierce County Code 18A.37.220 section C. It is our interpretation of this section that the local community is intended to be the primary beneficiary of such a facility. But the Key Peninsula would not be the primary beneficiary, because HRC would be obligated by their operating license to accept patients from all over the state. Just because a person in need lived on the KP would not mean they could find treatment on the KP.

Secondly, we contend HRC is by definition a “health service” and easily classified under 18A.37.220 section E. A basic reading of both that Pierce County code or Washington RCW 70.37.020, WAC 246-337, makes clear HRC is in fact a health service, regardless of any services provided beyond those related to health. 

The Pierce County code goes on to say very definitely that health services may not be built in R10 areas (PC code 18A.26.020). However, HRC would be allowed to build in one of our two Rural Activity Centers. No On HRC supports building in these areas. 

Please join us as we seek to keep the KP rural by visiting for more information.

Caleb Lystad lives in Lakebay.