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Kent sex offenders evicted from homes

As many as 50 registered sex offenders could be out on the street by September in order to comply with Kent code.

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FEDERAL WAY — Another local city is taking a strict stance on sex offender group homes.  Federal Way is the latest to issue a moratorium after neighbors on one street took their concerns to city leaders.

fedway1Residents in one Federal Way neighborhood say there is nothing worse than feeling like a prisoner in their own home.

On Wednesday, there was a pickup truck in the driveway but no one was home at 2809 S. 284th St. and neighbors want to keep it that way. The city closed down the group home in June.

“It’s hard I keep all my curtains all closed,” Lois Eriksson said Wednesday night.

Eriksson said she knew she was living across from a child molester and a convicted rapist for a while.

“It just made me uncomfortable,” said Eriksson.

But the discomfort soon turned into fear when it went from a few sex offenders to a large group.

“Everybody can put up with a few but eight — that’s pushing the limit,” said resident Steven Metzenberg.

The city of Federal Way is making it clear that the convicted sex offenders have overstayed their welcome.

“We closed the house down under code violations,” said Mayor Skip Priest.

Without new ordinances, Priest said in a news release, that home could potentially reopen as sex offender housing if they repair the violations.

So, on Tuesday night the City Council issued a six-month moratorium on new group homes that would house sex offenders and also passed an emergency business measure that will allow the city to require future group homes to meet certain regulations.

“These group homes should not be in neighborhoods,” said Priest.

The Legislature this year granted local cities more power to regulate group homes. The city of Puyallup has already essentially banned them in most areas and Federal Way could possibly follow Puyallup’s lead.

“It’s absolutely not acceptable in our city,” said Priest.

Over in Kent, the fight between the city and one property manager is escalating.  A $500-per-day fine is adding up until Eddie Weber evicts his sex offender tenants.

“It’s more dangerous to have these people at large, unstructured,” said Weber.

Weber says it’s hard for sex offenders to find housing and he refuses to let them roam the streets despite threats from the city to take the matter to court.

For the most part, Kent residents don’t have complaints about Weber’s homes. But in Federal Way, neighbors are more than concerned.

“They would stand out there and smoke, whistle and do catcalls and stuff,” said Metzenberg.

The lewd behavior was enough to force one family to move out of the neighborhood for good. The residents now say they can finally let their kids out to play, something they could not do for a long time. The city of Federal Way says during the moratorium they are hoping to find a permanent fix so sex offender group homes cannot move into neighborhoods.

The city currently has only three locations with two registered sex offenders living in a residence. With the June closure of the group home, there are currently no sex offender group homes with more than two offenders in residence.

KENT — It’s an ultimatum that could put 70 sex offenders back on the streets. The city of Kent is threatening to shut down 10 group homes that are breaking city code.

sohousingBut most of the sex offenders are not budging, saying they have no where else to live.  Each group homes faces a $500 fine per day starting in September and Kent’s mayor says the city will fight it out in court if they have to.

It’s the 6th largest city in Washington and in Kent more than 300 sex offenders now live in the city.

“These guys need a place to stay,” said group home manager Eddie Weber.

Weber manages six of the 10 homes the city is trying to shut down. His properties have been operating for years as clean and sober homes. Once the city realized multiple sex offenders were living together, the eviction notices went out in May.

“The existence of group homes housing sex offenders is illegal,” said Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke.

“The Department of Corrections knows they are here, everyone who came here had to be approved to be here so we are trying to follow the rules,” said Weber.

Weber says he oversees 50 sex offenders who have nowhere to go but the streets, including many level 3 sex offenders who say a stable home keeps them in line.

“I would say so yes because here I have structure,” said one sex offender.

“Everybody has availability of apartments or other living situations where they could go to,” said Cooke.

“The idea that it’s easy for these people to find housing is ludicrous,” said Weber.

Some residents can empathize but says it’s still scary to know that as many as 10 sex offenders are living under one roof in some cases.

“I have two little kids so it’s a concern,” said Kent resident Felicia Tanner.

It’s so much of a concern that Tanner often uses an app on her cell phone often to track sex offenders.

But at least one neighbor is defending the group homes saying the city should leave them alone as long as the sex offenders are behaving.  “If neighbors are comfortable with it why would anybody else care about it.”

The city of Kent not only cares but is now threatening legal action.

“Five hundred dollars a day or going to King County Superior court taking them to court on it,” said Cooke.

Weber says he is not budging.

“For now until I don’t have any ground to stand on,” said Weber.

Weber also says that because many of his sex offenders are going through rehab they have a legal right to stay in his program.

His next step is to try to get the feds involved. Until then he will face $3000 a day starting in September because he says the sex offenders will be more dangerous if they are forced into the streets.

sexoffendersKENT — The city of Kent has notified 10 group homes housing registered sex offenders that they have until September to clear out.

The homes were sent a letter Aug. 19 instructing owners to comply with city code pertaining to the sex offenders, restricting the homes from operating within 1,000 feet of a school, church, park, playground or residential area. Also, the homes can’t be located within 600 feet of another sex offender home.

According to Kent’s City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick, the 10 homes have violated city code. Owners were first notified of their violations in May and given 30 days to bring the homes into compliance. The city received requests from the owners for additional time, Fitzpatrick said, but the owners have yet to make the necessary changes.

“In total, we’ve given them four months to stop the illegal use of the homes and to assist their residents to find alternative housing,” Fitzpatrick said. “As of today, there is no indication these owners or operators intend to comply with the law; therefore, we must take this necessary legal step to enforce it.”

Operators will have until the first week of September to comply with the city code before the city files suit in King County Superior Court to pursue code violations that carry a fine of $500 per day.

Many of the homes are managed by Eddie Weber, who said in July that evicting that sex offenders would put them out on the street.

“It’s grossly unfair,” Weber said at the time. “It’s just bad policy.”

Kent is the sixth largest city in Washington.

KENT — The city of Kent has notified 10 group homes housing registered sex offenders that they have until the end of the July to get many of them out.

kentSome say that that’s a dangerous deadline.

Eddie Weber manages six of the 10 group homes. He said Thursday he got a notice in May that too many sex offenders were living in his properties. He is now facing having to release 50 sex offenders into the streets

“Grossly unfair, just bad policy,” Weber said.

He added that he has been running clean and sober homes for years like the one on Bridges Avenue South that currently houses 14 sex offenders.

“They just changed the definition (on group homes); you are no longer a clean and sober home, you are a group home — so move,” Weber said.

An attorney for the city of Kent declined to go on camera to explain the city’s side.  The attorney did, however, say it was a zoning issue and that they granted extensions allowing the sex offenders’ time to find new homes.

“I went door to door almost five days a week, and the VA was trying to get me places, but when they find out I am a sex offender, no one wants me,” said Arthur Hamelin, a Level 3 sex offender.

Hamelin said he will be homeless in the next six days. And he admitted that instability could make him dangerous.

“I would say so, because here I have more structure. I attend classes once a week. I go to AA. I work around here. I’m always busy,” said Hamelin.

Some say the public is safer with sex offenders living together than having the ex-convicts roaming the streets, while others say too many of them in one home is simply dangerous for the neighborhood.

“It’s not the best scenario. It’s not someone going out of work release, it’s completely different,” said neighbor David Lopez.

Weber said his homes are the lesser of two evils.

“I hope the community recognizes that it is more dangerous to have these people at large run amok,” Weber said.

Weber hired an attorney to challenge the city’s ruling.

The sex offenders have until July 31 to move out. If they do not, the owners of the homes will face steep fines.