The Puyallup City Council on Tuesday extended a temporary ban on halfway houses in residential zones, responding to concerns about a proposal that galvanized a south-end neighborhood.
The council’s unanimous vote came after about an hour of public comment, overwhelmingly in support of the moratorium.
“The only place I want 20 felons living together is in prison, not in a residential neighborhood,” said Paul Mahoney, a letter carrier who works in the affected area. “… If we let this house into our city without restrictions, it will be the first but it will not be the last.”
Agnes Caras, who works in education and lives by the Shaw Road home that’s at the center of the community concerns, said she worries about children who live in the neighborhood and those who attend school nearby.
“I would like you to consider this big, huge risk to our kids,” she said.
A few hundred people attended the meeting, which was held at Pioneer Park Pavilion instead of the council’s chambers at City Hall because of the expectation there would be a large crowd.
The moratorium prevents the city from processing applications, issuing permits or otherwise approving group homes in which two or more residents have been convicted of certain crimes, including violent offenses and sex offenses.
The idea is to give city officials time to develop a policy on halfway houses.
The council enacted the moratorium in early August, and a public hearing was required within 60 days. The moratorium will be in place into February.
There aren’t any known halfway houses in Puyallup. But resident Larry Parson plans to offer what he describes as low-cost shared housing in a home he recently purchased on Shaw near 23rd Avenue. Parson has said he intends for veterans to live there; he also has said some of the veterans could be recently released prisoners, including sex offenders.
He has been in touch with the state Department of Corrections, among other groups and agencies.
Neighbors – alarmed about the possibility of a high number of felons, including sex offenders, living together there – appealed to city officials. They circulated a petition and packed a community meeting this summer.
Speakers Tuesday night pointed out issues including that the house is near several schools and isn’t close to public-transportation routes.
Reached earlier in the day, Parson said he wouldn’t be at the hearing. He said the moratorium will have little effect on his plans because what he has in mind doesn’t fit the definition of a halfway house.
The house is vacant and needs improvements before anyone can move in, Parson said.
On Tuesday night, council members thanked residents for bringing the issue to their attention.
“I share your passion and concern,” Mayor Rick Hansen said. As parents and residents, he and his council colleagues “are hearing what you say and we feel what you say,” he said.