Suit filed against DSHS sex offender housing contractor

Suit filed on behalf of group opposing high-risk sex offender housing in Poulsbo

A suit filed in Kitsap County Superior Court on Wednesday claims that the home housing several high-risk sex offenders on Viking Way in Poulsbo is a public nuisance and poses a considerable risk to surrounding residents.

The suit — filed on behalf of the opposition group Washington State for Public Safety — follows a letter sent by the Department of Community Development on March 5, informing the owners and operators of the Viking Way less restrictive alternative (LRA) home, that the facility was operating in violation of county zoning regulations. In the letter, the county stated that Westsound Support Services, LLC had 14 days to file an appeal or comply with the order to cease operations at the LRA or otherwise face additional enforcement action.

Jim Bolger, the DCD’s interim director said Wednesday that the group operating the facility had indeed requested an appeal with the hearing examiner, but this fact did not appear to assuage WSPS’ executive director Pamela Benson.

“We had always publicly stated that should they not voluntarily comply, we would file a lawsuit,” Benson said. “We’re sticking to our word to the community.”

“We don’t know what the appeal is going to do, we don’t know what the decision is going to be and we don’t know how long it is going to take for the appeal process,” she added.

When asked if the group would continue the suit, should the hearing examiner maintain the DCD’s initial position, Benson cautiously said WSPS would “likely not” continue to pursue legal action against the operators of the LRA.

“Our sole purpose is to close this house down, it’s not to be vindictive.”

The defendants named in the suit are Westsound Support Services, LLC, the private company operating under contract through the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Also listed are Kitsap Tenant Support Services and Tim and Lisa Calnan, the owners of the Viking Way property.

A few key points Included in the suit’s prayer for relief are:

  • An order declaring operation of the Viking Way LRA to be both a public and private nuisance and awarding damages in an amount to be determined at trial;
  • A permanent injunction and order abating the defendants from housing sex offenders in Kitsap County without proper zoning and public notification;
  • And an order requiring the government to give public notice before housing sexually violent predators (SVP’s) and finding that the Viking Way LRA is a Secured Community Transition Facility in its current use.

That last item would contend previous claims by DSHS, which has repeatedly referred to the facility as an LRA and stated that the Viking Way home does not qualify as a secure community transition facility, and therefore is not subject to the more thorough public notification process for SCTF’s.

Regardless of the outcome of the Viking Way LRA, Benson said this is just the beginning for WSPS’ efforts at pushing back against the residential housing of sexually violent predators in Washington.

“Closing down the Poulsbo house is not going to solve the problem,” Benson said. “It’s a complex problem that is being faced by communities and cities over the entire state.”

“We are going to continue working with Kitsap County officials on developing a plan and we are also going to begin a lot of statewide involvement, working with other groups toward legislative change.”

—Nick Twietmeyer is the editor of the North Kitsap Herald, Central Kitsap Reporter and Kingston Community News. Nick can be reached at ntwietmeyer@soundpublishing.com

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