Puyallup council chambers were filled beyond capacity Tuesday night for another round of emotional public testimony on the possibility of a halfway house for sex offenders and violent criminals in town.
The council decided to push forward the vote to extend the moratorium on halfway houses in residential neighborhoods, after closing the public hearing. The council voted unanimously to extend the moratorium another six months.
“We are a family of citizens and we need to continue to address this with a broad approach,” said Mayor Rick Hansen.
The council expects to vote on a permanent ordinance addressing halfway houses at the Feb. 5 meeting.
Many who approached the podium to speak to the council addressed concerns of convicted sex offenders and violent offenders being around children and in the community and congregating together.
“We are a military family and just moved here and I am a victim of sexual abuse,” said Shaw Road resident Roxanne Miller. “It’s unacceptable to my family and son to live near a place that functions under the guise of helping veterans. It’s unacceptable for [my husband] to put his family in harms way, after spending $375,000 for a house in the same cul-de-sac as this one.”
Planning commission members spoke to the concern of home value in addition to resident safety, saying that allowing a halfway house on Shaw Road will basically throw an unwanted business into a residential neighborhood, lowering its value.
There were also residents who voiced their concerns of home invasions and the possibility of heightened violent crime.
"I hear nothing but concerns for our children, which is our first priority, but it doesn't stop there," said Dr. Frank Door. "I have patients who come in and say how anxious they are in their own homes, how they are afraid to go out after dark and are applying for concealed weapons permits. Keep these guys out of our neighborhoods."
The council is still considering the logistics of a permanent ordinance that would restrict violent offender housing in residential neighborhoods, through zoning changes, permit fees or permits. Options include limiting this kind of housing to commercial and industrial zones, restricting sex offenders from living within 880 feet of each other, or require the owner of the facility to get a conditional use permit. The city could also change the definition of “family” in the zoning code. Currently, six people or less can live together in a home without being related.
“We are not limited to just one of these options,” said city attorney Kevin Yamamoto.
Councilmember Steve Vermillion also suggested adding a restriction to forbid offenders from living within 880 feet of a school bus stop.
“We do not want these kinds of houses in Puyallup… offenders have the right to live in communities once they are out of prison, but my big issue is them congregating together,” said councilmember John Knutsen. “And if they have to be here, we can charge the holy heck out of them for all the time we’re going to have to spend there.”