After plans for a halfway house for registered sex offenders and violent criminals on Shaw Road shocked and outraged the Puyallup community, the city has been tasked with finding a solution.
In August, the City Council passed a moratorium on halfway houses within city limits. As that ban reaches its expiriation date, Puyallup still needs to make a permanent decision through city code and law.
To further the discussion, Deputy City Attorney Steve Kirkelie presented his research on the issue to the Planning Commission at the meeting last Wednesday. The commission is crafting its recommendation to council, which will be presented in January.
LOCAL CODE AND ZONING OPTIONS
“Going forward, we’re really looking at two possible areas of change—in business licensing and zoning,” said Kirkelie. “But we are also trying to think outside of the box to find the best option.”
Kirkelie said the city could possibly require landlords to obtain a license to house registered sex offenders and make them pay impact fees, bonds or insurance requirements.
Another option would be to change the city’s limit on the number of non-family members allowed to live together. The current code allows for six people in one home; that number could be dropped to as low as two. Or, code could change to allow six unrelated individuals to live together, as long as none are violent criminals or registered sex offenders.
While there are options at the city level, the issue of housing for registered sex offenders is also being discussed in state legislature.
PROPOSED CHANGES IN STATE LAW
Recently, the state legislature allowed for a temporary housing voucher system that helps eligible offenders pay for room and board while they get back on their feet. The vouchers must be provided in conjunction with support services, such as substance abuse treatment, mental-health counseling, education or employment.
In 2006, the legislature passed a bill that prohibits local governments from establishing residency restrictions on sex offenders. However, sex offenders are not allowed to live 880 feet within a public or private school.
There is some talk to change those laws, with 25th District Reps. Dammeier and Zeiger working on a plan with representatives from Marysville that could place restrictions on the housing voucher program.
The proposed changes would limit the amount of vouchers a landlord could receive for housing a sex offender, taking away the possible financial motive. Local governments would have the right to inspect the dwelling, and no vouchers would be allowed if a Level III offender lives within 440 feet of another dwelling with a registered sex offender, or within 880 feet of a school.
The state legislature is likely to tackle this issue in early 2013.
“I really encourage us to move ahead on modifying our zoning and business licensing immediately and not wait for the state,” said Planning Commission member Chris McNutt. “There is a great deal of urgency among citizens. I live there too—we have the right to worry about it.”
STATUS OF SHAW ROAD PROPERTY
Neighbors of the property in question on Shaw Road and 23rd Street might have noticed some activity in the home that has been vacant for over 2 years.
The homeowner, Larry Parson, has applied for two city permits—to repair a water line and repair some internal wall structures, said Development Services Director Tom Utterback. Parson signed the halfway house moratorium affidavit and has not made any formal statement or filed a plan to open a halfway house for criminals on his property.
“If he decides to use the house as a single-family residence, there are no restrictions,” said Utterback. “But, if he brings up a proposal to use the property as a boarding house, he would not be able to. That house and property is under an intense microscope, so I’m sure if something happens, staff would react quickly.”
Do any of these options sound like a good solution to you? Tell us in the comments.