Council moves on psychologist’s home practice

The Port Orchard City Council moved Monday night to find a psychologist providing counseling services in his home in noncompliance with the special-use permit granted him nearly 20 years ago.

“Councilman Bob Geiger made a motion to determine that Dr. James R. Sullivan’s analysis showed that he was not in compliance with the special-use permit,” said City Clerk Pat Parks. “The city attorney is now putting together the resolution that will come before council next meeting.”

The council deliberated over whether Sullivan’s practice at 207 Rockwell Ave. had outgrown its original parameters and what impact that growth has had on the surrounding neighborhood. The number of staff, cars parked in the area, and the nature of the clientele were all discussed.

But the issue the council seemed most concerned about was the amount of staff working for Sullivan.

When the special-use permit was granted in 1984, Sullivan’s practice included himself and one staff member, and he predicted he might hire one more counselor. Since then, he has hired two more counselors.

Councilman John Clauson pointed out that the extra staff members worked part-time and the hours they were actually there might add up to only one full-time person. He also reminded the council that the amount of hours Sullivan was operating his business was actually less than he predicted at the time the permit was granted.

But the council decided the extra person was too much, and voted in favor of Geiger’s motion, with Clauson being the one dissenting vote.

“I couldn’t support the idea that (Sullivan was) in violation,” Clauson said. “Yes, there are more names, but there are less hours. It made no sense to me to penalize them.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Powers’ official vote was against finding Sullivan in noncompliance, but she said after the vote that she meant to vote for the motion.

Councilman Don Morrison said that regardless of the specifics, the “implication was that the business was to be low-impact, and that all the evidence now suggests it is not ‘low-impact.’ (Sullivan’s business) has grown, and is much more of an impact.”

The council also discussed the amount of cars parking in the area. Though the original permit stated Sullivan was to have six spaces on the property and he still had six spaces available, the council felt there was enough evidence that Sullivan’s clients and staff needed more parking.

Geiger, who was on the council when the original permit was approved, said the neighborhood “is a residential area and we need to keep it a residential area. (The business) was described as very low-key, and planned for a very small expansion, but (as evidenced) by the number of cars and the number of staff it is more than a small expansion.”

The council also discussed whether the fact that Sullivan’s clients now included domestic violence perpetrators would adversely affect the neighborhood. But the majority of the council seemed to feel this change in clientele was not a significant enough departure from what the permit described, which included Vietnam Veterans.

In previous council meetings, Sullivan stated he does not believe his business is out of compliance with the special-use permit.

“I feel badly that this has come to this type of forum,” Sullivan said. “I wish we could have resolved it in a neighborly basis with the neighborhood.”

Sullivan’s attorney, James Tracy, said he could not comment on the case while it is still pending. Tracy said if Sullivan is indeed found in noncompliance with the permit, they will first file a motion for reconsideration. The next step will be appealing to Superior Court.

“We will wait until the decision is issued before we decide our next course of action,” Tracy said.

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