State law requires cities to choose sites for sex offenders

SNOQUALMIE - Cities throughout the state are being asked to provide sites for potential halfway houses for sex offenders.

Snoqualmie city administrators told the City Council at a roundtable discussion before its Monday, July 8, meeting that the state Legislature passed a bill last year requiring counties to build more temporary housing, called secure community transition facilities, for Level 1, 2 and 3 sex offenders.

The state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), which is in charge of the program, sent letters to all cities stating that they could pick a building or site in their municipalities for a halfway house. The halfway houses would have a minimum of three beds, and the state would like to have sites chosen for 15 beds in King County by this fall.

The letter also stated that cities could choose not to provide a site. If the state deems the city should have one, however, it can then pick the site with the ability to sidestep local zoning codes.

"It's something no one wants to do," Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher said.

Council members and city staff worried that if they did offer a site, Snoqualmie would be put on the top of the county's list for the development of a halfway house.

Other council members worried, however, that if the city does not offer a site, it would leave Snoqualmie vulnerable to state officials who could choose whatever site they wanted.

"We would do a much better job of listening to the citizens then the state would," said Councilman Greg Fullington.

City administrators said that Snoqualmie may have an advantage compared to other cities in avoiding the halfway houses. The houses are prohibited from being built in floodplains or near public facilities such as schools and churches, things that are hard to avoid in Snoqualmie's limited space.

City administrators also said that since the city already has a halfway center near its limits - Echo Glen Children's Center- county planners may look elsewhere.

North Bend is looking to designate a site for a halfway house, while Carnation and Duvall have decided to wait for state action.

The City Council requested more documentation of the program and plans to take action later this summer.

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