News

Sex offenders next door?

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer will hold a town hall meeting at Lakeland Elementary Dec. 14 to address the state’s announcement this week that Peasley Canyon is a potential site for a transitional housing facility for sexual predators.

The town hall meeting will give residents of the areas surrounding Federal Way’s potential annexation area the opportunity to get the facts, to review the laws and processes governing placement of sex offenders and to learn the criteria used in selecting the sites.

King County staff and a representative from the King County Sheriff’s Office will attend the town hall meeting to answer questions.

Von Reichbauer said he will forward all citizen comment received at the meeting, over email and in writing to the state for consideration.

Meanwhile, the city of Federal Way is in a holding pattern until city staff can get direction from the Federal Way City Council.

“We’re just trying to figure out how we’re going to respond to this,” assistant city manager Derek Matheson said.

Deputy Mayor Dean McColgan said the location is bad for both Federal Way and Auburn.

“It puts a bad element close to our city,” he said. “It’s dangerous. I’m angry they decided to place it so close to our city.”

Last June, the Federal Way City Council discussed the imminence of the secure community transitional facilities and decided against establishing zoning guidelines for them within city limits out of a fear that creating legislation would make the city a target.

While the potential site is close to Federal Way, there’s nothing the city council can do to prevent it from going in because it lies in King County’s jurisdiction.

McColgan said he was surprised to hear the state selected Peasley Canyon as a possible site.

“I was hopeful we wouldn’t attract attention to Federal Way as a possible site,” he said. “Anything can happen, but I’m disappointed they chose a site so close to Federal Way.”

Cities had until Sept. 1 this year to come up with zoning guidelines for the facilities.

The state Department of Social and Health Services had the authority to use its own criteria to site the facilities in areas that didn’t produce zoning regulations or produced inappropriate zoning regulations after the deadline.

King County was picked as the first jurisdiction for transitional housing because it has sent the highest number of sex offenders into the special commitment center center at McNeil Island. Of the 172 residents in the center, 58 are from King County.

The three potential sites were chosen after a real estate brokerage firm conducted 13 site searches in King County that produced 167 potential parcels.

By matching the sites against buffers and restrictions, like lot size and price and proximity to schools, bus stops, churches, libraries, day cares and other restricted areas, the state came up with 11 potential parcels.

Those 11 parcels were further narrowed according to how reasonable highway access was to the sites — and therefore police response time — and whether landowners were willing to sell their properties.

The three semi-final sites selected are:

• 4.8 acres of vacant land at 1801 344th Ave. NE in Carnation, estimated to cost $187,990.

• 5.4 acres of vacant land in the 5300 block of 336th Street in Peasley Canyon between Federal Way and Auburn, estimated to cost $199,950.

• 1.2 acres with an existing house at 4515 S. 200th St. at Orilla Road between SeaTac and Kent, estimated to cost $975,000.

DSHS will not necessarily go with the cheapest site.

Over the next several months, DSHS will hold two public hearings in each of the three sites during which citizens can learn more about the facilities and give their input into the site selection process. Dates and times have not been scheduled yet.

After the hearings, a final site will be chosen and DSHS will hold another public forum in that community.

McColgan encouraged city resident to attend the meetings.

“I’m sure there’ll be a lot of opposition,” he said. “It’s time for the community to step up and tell the state we don’t want a facility so close to our community.”

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

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