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Planning Commission Discusses Options to Restrict Sex Offender Housing in Puyallup

The Puyallup Planning Commission and City Attorney discussed how changes in local code could effectively keep a halfway house for sex offenders or violent criminals from opening on Shaw Road, or anywhere else within city limits.

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.

BarT December 10, 2012 at 03:02 PM
One myth is that all sex offenders are the same. The distinction is important. There are people on the registry who urinated in public, that they sent a sex message to a loved one, that they might have had consensual teen sex versus someone who might have had brutally raped a dozen women or children. There is no distinction there. They think everybody on the registry is a monster. There is much misinformation circulated by many media and elected officials. The fact is the recidivism rate for sex offenders is the second lowest for any offense. It is 5.3% over a lifetime for all offenders and for those who are child molesters," it is even lower; it is 3.1%. Any of these restrictions are not in line with federal laws and will probably be challenged in court costing the taxpayer a lot of money. Just ask Ohio.
Chris McNutt December 10, 2012 at 04:22 PM
We're actually keeping those distinctions in mind, and are concerned about level 2 and level 3 offenders. The land owner's son is a level 3 offender and was introduced to the concept of capitalizing on sex offenders by his personal involvement from placing his son in housing through White Feather Re-entry. The owner of White Feather was the real estate agent on that house, and the initial plans were to house as many as 20 sex offenders there (presumably all of whom, White Feather would be paid to place there.). It's 2 miles from a public bus stop, across the street from a day care, on the corner of a school bus stop... The list goes on. The land owner has a blind spot when it comes to sex offenders, still claiming that his son made a simple mistake. His son used a school district babysitting service to select his many victims. That is not a simple mistake. The Shaw Road Halfway House revealed to the City Council the holes in our ordinances around this important issue, and they, along with the Planning Commission are moving to fix them.
Lauren Padgett (Editor) December 10, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Thanks for your distinction, Chris! I think it's important to add that the council and planning commission are concerned about felons and sex offenders that are likely to reoffend or perpetrated violent crime--not just trying to create a blanket law.
Carla December 11, 2012 at 08:05 AM
I offer no sympathy...once a dirty dog, always a dirty dog....City of Puyallup had better not allow that guy to bring criminals sexual in nature or otherwise in. I was there down at the park when the city council met and had the hearing. Neighbors were livid, and that doesn't begin to describe feelings and emotions.

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