At a meeting last Wednesday, Poulsbo City Council members voted unanimously to adopt interim zoning regulations which will temporarily restrict where less restrictive alternative (LRA) housing for Level 3 sex offenders, may be sited within city limits. Under regulations passed last week, LRA’s will be limited to areas zoned for “light industrial uses” and will have to receive a conditional use permit to operate the facility.
The decision comes on the heels of Kitsap County’s Board of Commissioners recently passing similar regulations. The impetus behind the county’s involvement was the vocal backlash from a large number of Poulsbo residents, after they discovered that several civilly-committed, high-risk sex offenders were going to be housed in a residential neighborhood along Viking Way in Poulsbo.
Shortly after word got out about the plan to house offenders at the “Poulsbo house,” the opposition group Washington State for Public Safety was formed. According to organizers with the group, WSPS’ purpose was closing the LRA and fighting back against the siting of LRA’s in neighborhoods. Recently the group held a silent auction and fundraising event at Poulsbo’s Slippery Pig Brewery. The April 24 event was part of a push by the group to help continue to pay for legal representation and research efforts in the fight against the siting of LRA’s in residential settings.
According to Poulsbo’s planning and economic development director, Karla Boughton, the interim regulations are modeled after those recently adopted by Kitsap County. Poulsbo, Boughton said, isn’t the only city nearby that took the hint from the county, either.
“Other cities are following suit, the City of Port Orchard already adopted their interim regulation last week and the City of Bremerton is moving forward as well,” Boughton said at the April 17 meeting. “This community is understanding that these facilities cause concern for the community and want to ensure that they are sited correctly and appropriately.”
The regulations, Boughton said establish a new type of land use, procedure and zoning regulations related to “high-risk secured facilities.” Under the current ordinance, such facilities would only be able to operate in areas zoned for light industrial uses.
“We have to be really careful about how we handle this,” Erickson said of LRA’s at the meeting. “We can’t tell them ‘no’ because the state law says we can’t, but what we can do is we can restrict it in a very tight way.”
“The situation isn’t normal, these are people that in my opinion, should be in jail, they should be in a prison,” Erickson added.
The interim regulations will remain in effect for six months or until permanent regulations have been adopted by the council.
The residents of the home on Viking Way are defined by the state as “sexually violent predators” and have been determined to pose a high risk of reoffending if they were to be released back into society. All of the residents at the Poulsbo LRA have completed their criminal sentences, but the state has determined that these predators cannot be released into society and therefore must remain in a secure facility under close supervision. The operators of the Viking Way LRA — Westsound Support Services, LLC — have contracted with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services to provide housing for the sexually violent predators.