The Puyallup City Council voted Tuesday night to extend the moratorium on halfway houses as it seeks strict regulation on shared housing for sex offenders and violent felons.
The council imposed the moratorium in August after residents raised concerns about the owner of a residence in the 2300 block of Shaw Road expressing interest in housing veterans there, acknowledging some of them could be newly released prisoners, including sex offenders. The moratorium was due to expire Feb. 7.
City staffers will present a draft ordinance on regulating halfway houses for council consideration Feb. 5.
State law regulates where sex offenders can live to protect public safety and bars cities and towns from imposing stricter rules, but Deputy City Attorney Steve Kirkelie said after the meeting that officials would test those boundaries.
Push the envelope, Councilman Steve Vermillion directed city lawyers who will draft the proposed ordinance. Dont be fearful of litigation.
Added Councilman John Hopkins: The more attempts we can make to stop this, the better. The ones (regulations) that will get challenged will get challenged, but hopefully will leave the rest intact.
Property owner Larry Parson said in an interview Tuesday night that he never intended to open a halfway house that he merely wants to offer low-cost housing for disadvantaged veterans. He said its possible, but not guaranteed, that some residents would be recent prison inmates.
Parson said hes repairing the house and talking to veterans organizations that could screen tenants to ensure theyre not a danger to residents. He hopes to have that process wrapped up in March. The project has morphed into something unrecognizable, Parson said, adding, Nobody wanted to listen to what we had to say, including the City Council.
The city, meanwhile, is getting help in Olympia.
Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, has introduced legislation limiting to three the number of sex offenders who can reside together if they are using rental vouchers provided by the state Department of Corrections after theyre released from custody.
Dammeier said in a statement that the legislation, Senate Bill 5105, is intended to give more flexibility to cities like Puyallup to establish ordinances and codes to address this very issue. A companion bill has been introduced in the House.
Options proposed by staffers for council feedback included requiring a business license for places housing two or more sex offenders, restricting halfway houses to commercial and industrial zones, and requiring a bond and on-site security.
Current city regulations allow up to six unrelated people to live together, but they place no controls or limits on sex offenders or felons.
The councils comments came after passionate testimony from residents.
Roxanne Miller, 35, burst into tears as she described being a victim of sexual abuse who unknowingly bought a home in December neighboring the proposed halfway house. Miller said after the meeting that she was abused by an uncle from the time she was an infant until she was 11.
Miller, who is married and pregnant with a second child, did extensive Internet research to find the neighborhood with the best schools and verified that the home wasnt near registered sex offenders. She learned of the proposal on her first day in the new home, when a resident alerted her to a meeting.
Its appalling, she said of the proposed facility.
Christian Hill: 253-274-7390