City prohibits multiple sex offenders, violent felons in residential zones

Following a year of public debate, the Puyallup City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to prohibit the clustering of two or more sex offenders or violent felons from living in the same residence in any residential zone.

The ordinance, which passed 7-0 on June 18, does allow a property owner to locate a dwelling with two or more sex offenders or violent felons in the central business district, but it requires the property owner to obtain a conditional use permit.

In addition, a property owner must apply for a “significant impact business” license, and the city is allowed to impose additional conditions in that business license to address harmful impacts.

Some of those who attended last week’s city council meeting were concerned the ordinance would be challenged in court.

“What we’ve done is proper and well thought out,” Mayor Rick Hansen said. “Every time you break ground and do something new, it will be looked at. I hope cities will look at it and think, ‘you know, Puyallup got it right.’ “

State Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, attended, along with Julie Door, who congratulated council members and city staff on the ordinance.

Council member Kent Boyle said Door was the catalyst who got the process moving. The District 3 resident was instrumental in the grassroots effort and encouraging residents to travel to Olympia and speak about the issue, Boyle said.

“It was Julie Door prodding us that kept council and staff going on this,” Boyle said.

Door recognized Tina Burns, who also lives in District 3, for first bringing the proposed halfway house off Shaw Road to her attention. The proposal could have allowed multiple sex offenders in one house. That sparked a well-attended public meeting at the Pioneer Park Pavilion last Aug. 2.

Five days later, the Puyallup City Council adopted an ordinance that imposed a moratorium on halfway houses in residential zones where two or more sex offenders or violent felons would reside.

On Jan. 22, the city council extended the moratorium through Aug. 7, 2013. The council held a first reading of the full ordinance in February.

Door plans to run this fall for the city council’s District 3, Position 2 seat that Boyle currently holds. Chris McNutt, who serves on the Puyallup Planning Commission, also plans to run for the seat. Boyle chose not to seek re-election.

Last week, McNutt expressed concern that the broad language used in the ordinance in regard to violent felony offenses would make it easier for courts to take issue with the ordinance.

Council member John Knutsen said the size and scope of the ordinance does create a weakness to future challenges, but he said the necessity to serve the public was more important.