On September 25th, more than 300 people were in attendance in the Pioneer Park Pavillion to give public comment and support to the extension of the moratorium on halfway houses the City Council enacted on August 7th.
A few months ago Tina Burns purchased a home on Shaw Road. Five days later Larry Parson bought the home across the street. Excited to meet her new neighbor she learned that Larry was intending to turn his recent purchase into a halfway house for up to 20 sex offenders and felons.
This horrific realization prompted Tina into action. She started a facebook group called Shaw ComeTogether and quickly rallied over 500 of her neighbors to the cause. Tina together with, Julie, Tracy, Matt, Nancy, Sean, Dawn, Paul, Bob, and Brenda (forgive me if I’ve missed anyone) are the primary activists and driving force behind nearly all the research and information gathered. They also grew the facebook page to over 600 members, created a petition containing over 2,000 signatures, hand delivered flyers to thousands of homes, funded and initiated a mailer which was sent to 2,500 homes, and on August 1st prompted the largest public meeting in memory. (Coverage of that meeting can be found here) It’s been an amazing event to watch and be a part of.
One week after the historic public meeting the City Council unanimously voted a moratorium on halfway houses into effect. This is to give the city time to research and create zoning amendments and ordinances to regulate the placement and usage of these potentially dangerous facilities. By state law, an official public hearing must take place within 60 days of the initial moratorium action in order to extend it for the full six months.
On September 25th, that public hearing was held and there was over an hour and a half of information and public comment. Many told personal stories, others contributed facts and figures. Some urged caution about the scope of the plan, but everyone present was for the extension of the moratorium and against this happening in their neighborhood. After a short amount of discussion the council approved the extension of the moratorium with a 7-0 vote and offered continued support to the people of the city.
The next step will be legal research and drafting proposals for zoning amendments and/or changes to the municipal code and will unfurl over the next few months.
Ideally this will be followed up in Olympia by new legislation led by Hans Zeiger and Bruce Dammeier which will give cities better tools to deal with these issues. When this legislation hits the floor, I hope to see as many people as possible there to support it. The blood sweat and tears shed locally to stop this can also be used to make our friends, family, and neighbors all over Washington safer.
Keep up the support guys. Our council and citizens need our support as they continue to fight to keep us safe.