County commissioners receive update on ‘high-risk secured facilities’ ordinance

A new ordinance would govern where group homes for level 3 sex offenders could be sited

With the August 6 deadline looming for the Kitsap Board of County Commissioners to adopt final regulations on “High-Risk Secured Facilities,” the Kitsap County Department of Community Development presented an update to the proposed amendment for community feedback during a recent meeting of the county commissioners.

On February 6, commissioners adopted interim zoning regulations to “ensure public awareness and participation in the permit review process, neighborhood compatibility, and safety of both the residents of the facility, as well as the neighbors, when considering the placement of a High-Risk Secured Facility.”

Monday’s meeting was the third public hearing related to the proposed amendments. The Kitsap County Planning Commission also held a public hearing May 14 and unanimously recommended approval of the proposed amendments.

“The safety of Kitsap County is our paramount duty,” Commissioner Ed Wolfe said. “It’s a constant factor in every decision we make. No community in Kitsap is being targeted or ignored.”

The updates to the proposed amendment will define “High-Risk Secured Facilities,” in the county code and allow proposed facilities in urban commercial and industrial zones, and will also require neighborhood compatibility and safety requirements be met.

Under the new ordinance the county will be required to mail notifications to school districts and all landowners within a half-mile of a proposed facility. The county will also have to host a neighborhood meeting before processing a permit application, during which a public hearing will be held as part of the permit review process.

Additional siting restrictions include an 880-foot community protection zone for public and private schools. Under this proposal, these facilities cannot be adjacent to, across the street from, or within the line of sight of schools, bus stops, daycare facilities, preschools, shelters, parks, trails, sports fields, playgrounds, recreational and community centers, churches, libraries and youth camps, among other facilities.

The Department of Community Development added that there are certain limitations under state law which prohibit Kitsap County from regulating facility operations such as the number of staff per occupant, staff training requirements, outings in the community, security requirements, and separation distances from certain facilities beyond what is allowed in state law.

However, the county can regulate who receives notification when a facility is proposed, the zones a facility is allowed to be proposed in, and the building safety requirements.

“To be clear, I support this ordinance,” said Tricia Benson of Washington State for Public Safety. “The task of finding the best solution for the safety of our community has been difficult and extremely time consuming.”

The City of Port Orchard and the City of Poulsbo also adopted interim regulations in April to regulate High-Risk Secured Facilities. The City of Bremerton adopted an amendment to its municipal code earlier this month which restricts High-Risk Secured Facilities within 880 feet of existing residential property.

“Thank you Kitsap County for leading by example,” Benson went on to say. “Ultimately, Washington state laws must be changed to properly regulate the placement of conditionally released SVP’s (Sexually Violent Predators).”

—Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tshuey@soundpublishing.com

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