The Puyallup City Council Tuesday approved a temporary ban on halfway houses in residential zones, roughly one week after worries about a proposed operation on Shaw Road drew hundreds to a community meeting.
The moratorium takes effect immediately, with a public hearing on the matter planned for Sept. 25.
Mayor Rick Hansen called the ban “absolutely the right thing at the right time.” He said he’s glad the community reached out to city leaders to express their concerns.
The moratorium is intended to give officials time to establish permanent policy dealing with halfway houses, which aren’t specifically addressed in city code. It will prevent the city from processing applications, issuing permits or otherwise approving group homes in which two or more residents have felony convictions for crimes ranging from first-degree theft to child molestation to murder.
The controversy in Puyallup centers on a home on Shaw Road, near its intersection with 23rd Avenue. The home has been vacant for a few years and needs more work before people can move in.
But owner Larry Parson has said he intends to use it as a shared living space for veterans, and he’s acknowledged some residents could be recently released prisoners, including sex offenders.
He’s also said he may seek to house more than six people there. In general, no more than six unrelated people may share a home under city code.
Parson also has been in contact with the state Department of Corrections and is being advised by a real estate agent who runs a transitional housing program for recently released prisoners.
Neighbors are worried about a high number of felons, including sex offenders, living together in the home. They took to social media, circulated a petition and packed last Wednesday’s community meeting.
Over the last couple of weeks, the neighbors raised concerns including that the home is close to several schools and has no public transportation routes nearby or businesses to provide employment. They also say Parson isn’t being clear and forthright about plans for the property.
Parson wasn’t at Tuesday’s special council meeting. Reached afterward, he told a reporter he never intended for the home to be filled with felons and sex offenders. He said he’s still forming his plans for the property and will follow the law.
The council’s vote on the moratorium was unanimous.
The city attorney said it would not apply to group homes that are already operating in Puyallup.
The session didn’t include time set aside for public comment, per the typical practice for special council meetings.
But afterward, some neighbors who attended told The News Tribune the council made the right decision.