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State requires cities to house sex offenders

A state requirement to provide secure housing for sex offenders will have Federal Way city officials exploring their options during this year’s comprehensive plan update.

The Secure Community Transitional Facility law requires cities and counties to make provisions for homes where sex offenders would live between release from incarceration or treatment and re-entry into the general community.

At a meeting of the King County city managers group last week, Federal Way staff presented the pros and cons of cities adopting their own zoning regulations compared to receiving direction from the state.

“Federal Way is taking the lead on the whole Secure Community Transitional Facility issue,” said assistant city manager Derek Matheson. “We’re trying to find out what other cities are doing.”

The group decided to revisit the issue at its May meeting. If there’s enough interest among members, they could cooperate in developing common zoning criteria.

Every county and city must decide by Sept. 1 where and how they would site their facilities. If they don’t, the state Department of Social and Health Services will place the facilities according to its own criteria.

“Choosing to not make a decision is the same as making a decision,” Matheson said.

The law requires transitional facilities to be evenly distributed across the state, which means every city must come up with local regulations and guidelines in the event one of the facilities lands within city limits.

Every county is required to take back its share of sex offenders it puts into the system. King County will be required to take between five and 15 sex offenders, Matheson said.

After their release from McNeil Island, sex offenders would live in a transition facility before being fully released.

If the city opts to amend its codes, it will have to take the amendments to the Planning Commission, the Land Use and Transportation Committee and the City Council by Sept. 1.

Public forums on the issue aren’t scheduled yet, but all comprehensive plan amendments go through a public process, with opportunities for public comment, before those three bodies.

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and ejahn@fedwaymirror.com.

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