Puyallup City Council may adopt offender housing law Tuesday

Staff writerJune 17, 2013 

The Puyallup City Council could take final action Tuesday night on an ordinance banning sex offenders and violent felons from living together in residential areas.

The ordinance also would require a special permit for business owners who want to open a halfway house.

The council will revisit the issue following a 10-month public process that included a temporary moratorium on such housing in the city and passage of a state law granting local governments more power over housing regulations for former inmates.

City Councilman John Hopkins said he expects the city’s action will reflect the position of residents, who have overwhelmingly supported stricter regulations.

“It’s our job as council members to provide as much protection as we can to the citizens of Puyallup,” Hopkins said Monday.

Last year, local property owner Larry Parson planned to open a shared living space for veterans near 23rd Avenue and Shaw Road — a venture he acknowledged could attract newly released prisoners, including sex offenders.

After strong outcry from neighbors, the City Council imposed and later extended a moratorium on halfway houses that would be occupied by two or more sex offenders or violent felons. That moratorium is set to expire in August.

Parson has said that critics have turned his idea to offer low-cost housing to disadvantaged veterans “into something unrecognizable.”

If adopted, Puyallup’s ordinance would prohibit two or more offenders from living together in any residential zone within city limits. It also would require the property owner of a so-called “significant impact business” — specifically, shared housing, airports, fireworks plants or hazardous waste sites — to secure a permit. It would be subject to a public hearing to possibly impose additional conditions, such as insurance.

Washington cities have more input on halfway houses after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law last month preventing two or more former inmates who use state-issued rental vouchers from sharing an apartment unless they’re renting a unit on an approved list.

Also, the state Department of Corrections must notify local jurisdictions when properties inside local boundaries are added to that list, and local officials can request removal of housing providers.

The first reading of the city’s ordinance was held in February.

“We want to have as many tools to deal with this where it has negative influence in our neighborhoods,” Mayor Rick Hansen said. “One way to do that is to have some say in where (halfway houses) are located within our city.”

Justifications for the rules include negative effects of group housing on property values and the possibility of former inmates re-offending, according to the ordinance.

Safety is at the center of the debate, both for neighbors and for halfway house residents, whose security could be “compromised due to public outrage,” the ordinance says.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682

kari.plog@thenewstribune.com

@KariPlog

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