County: Poulsbo sex offender housing violates code

County calls for WestSound Support Services to cease operations, group has two weeks to appeal

Kitsap County officials gave notice on Tuesday to the owners and administrators of a home in Poulsbo — being used to house high-risk sex offenders — that the property is in violation of county code and the group must cease operations.

The letter from the Kitsap County Department of Community Development states that the Viking Way less restrictive alternative (LRA) group home — located in the 17300 block of Viking Way — is in violation of zoning ordinance due to the elevated services required at the property. If the group wishes to continue to provide housing for the offenders, it must do so in a location zoned for commercial or industrial uses.

According to the letter:

“The Viking Way facility is a LRA with enhanced services and security. Unlike some of the other LRAs, the [sexually violent predators] residing in the facility require twenty-four-hour care and monitoring … The nature of the enhanced services increases the land use impacts of the neighboring community beyond what [is] contemplated by the zone.”

Under a contract with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, the Viking Way LRA currently houses four, Level 3 sex offenders. Last December, numerous residents and neighbors voiced their opposition to the LRA, alleging a lack of adequate notification during the siting process.

Pamela Benson is the executive director for Washington State for Public Safety a group which was founded in response to the Viking Way LRA. Benson was in her ceramics studio when she received the phone call from WSPS’s legal liaison, informing her of the news on Tuesday.

“It’s exciting for the community, that’s the main thing,” Benson said. “It’s a community win.”

Benson said she saw the move as a clear indication that county commissioners have listened to their constituency, adding that she believed the move would work to rebuild public trust in their commissioners.

“I am very pleased with the county because they are indeed acting in the best interest of the community as a whole,” she said.

“We have raised statewide awareness of an issue that is happening all over the state, that needs to be addressed,” Benson continued. “I’m very proud that our community were the ones that stood up and said, ‘Hey, this isn’t right. These types of homes should not be in residential neighborhoods.’”

WestSound Support Services will have 14 days to appeal the decision, after which the DCD may begin to employ additional enforcement actions.

—Nick Twietmeyer is a reporter with Kitsap News Group. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com

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