Poulsbo City Council takes no action on permanent sex offender housing restrictions

City will likely revisit permanent restrictions later in the year

Following a public hearing and discussion at a June 5 meeting, the Poulsbo City Council took no action toward permanent zoning regulations for high risk secured facilities — a new type of building use proposed to encompass residences which house multiple Level 3 sex offenders.

The hearing came after significant public backlash following the revelation last year that a residence along Viking Way near Poulsbo — just outside city limits — had been operating a for-profit business housing high-risk sex offenders, classified as “sexually violent predators” (SVP’s), under a contract through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

Poulsbo recently enacted a temporary zoning ordinance requiring such facilities be built in areas zoned for light industrial uses. The interim zoning ordinance was enacted by the city in April and will remain in effect through October, at which point the city may choose to extend the ordinance or adopt it permanently.

At the meeting, council member Ed Stern asked for clarification on accusations recently made by Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler in a letter to Kitsap County commissioners regarding actions taken for the zoning of SVP facilities.

“The county took special measures, including issuing a land use violation and adopting interim zoning regulations, to respond to Poulsbo residents about SVP housing. Frankly, it’s unfair that Kitsap County has taken steps to amend its regulations to benefit the Poulsbo community, and will not even consider doing the same for the City of Bremerton,” Wheeler said in his letter.

Stern was asking about the legitimacy of this statement and if, in fact, the city of Poulsbo had been given preferential treatment by the county.

Poulsbo City Planning Director, Karla Boughton, shared her understanding of the situation between Bremerton and Kitsap County.

“My understanding is that the City of Bremerton is responding to the zoning districts that the county has chosen for their interim zoning regulations. While the county has chosen non-residential districts for these facilities in those areas, where it abuts Bremerton city limits, that zoning for the city of Bremerton is residential,” said Boughton.

“For unincorporated Kitsap County surrounding Poulsbo, it is all zoned residential with the exemption of some of our very far north end areas off of Highway 305, which were zoned light industrial. We do not have the same zoning conflicts with the county as Bremerton does. I believe it is more a circumstance of zoning than favoritism,” said Boughton.

Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson agreed.

“I sympathize with Mayor Wheeler. I think a question that everyone (in Bremerton) should be asking is why is there industrial zoning on one side of the land and residential on the other? Normally you do not put residential and industrial properties next to each other. I believe it is a miss-match of zoning in Bremerton,” said Erickson.

Erickson also said that the zoning problem lies with the state.

“This is a state issue that needs to be resolved at the state level. They foisted it down to the cities and we’re trying to pick up the collateral damage of what they created,” Erickson added.