Puyallup council to vote on proposal that would restrict where homeless services can open

PUYALLUP, Wash. – There isn’t a city in the Puget Sound that is immune from our growing homeless problem.  It’s a concern to public safety that has one South Sound city pushing for a new ordinance.

Bellevue has already passed a similar measure.  Now, Puyallup will vote next month on restricting where new homeless services can open.

Puyallup is a small town with a big city problem.

“It’s part of the broader regional problem that we have with the homeless,” Puyallup Mayor John Palmer said.

How to solve the growing homeless problem turned into a heated discussion at Tuesday’s Puyallup City Council meeting.  A new ordinance would only give two options to open a new homeless shelter or service center.  The first option is to stay in the northern corner of the city.  The second option is to get special approval from the City Council.

“We’ve got to find a way that we can provide services that minimize impact on the community,” Palmer said.

It stems from concern about the city’s only homeless service site, New Hope Resource Center, near downtown.

“Drug use and drug paraphernalia and people being exposed to that. Kids being exposed to that. Nudity on occasion and then theft around the area,” said Palmer.

The proposed ordinance would force new homeless sites to be 1,000 feet away from sensitive areas like schools, libraries, and senior centers.

“I think its an excellent idea for health reasons and sanitation and safety reasons,” said longtime Puyallup resident Thom Delihunt.

Delihunt says the ordinance will protect residents and the homeless population.

“When they’re all spread out, you can’t help them because you can’t find them,” said Delihunt.

Just two City Council members oppose the ordinance, saying it’s too restrictive.

“This ordinance is not adequate. It sets us up for liability for litigation,” said Puyallup City Councilmember Robin Farris.

While supporting the ordinance, Puyallup homeowner Pat Bendon hopes the city also provides more help to end the cycle of homelessness.

“I used to be a lot more against it -- shelter them away, do something. But I still think if you can have some sort of concept of that but at the same time providing them outlets to help,” Bendon said.

The ordinance could allow for exceptions for some homeless service sites to be in restricted areas on a case-by-case basis.

The City Council is set to vote on the ordinance during its October 2 meeting.

 

Ordinance:

AN ORDINANCE of the City Council of the City of Puyallup, Washington, providing zoning standards for the permitting of daytime drop-in centers and overnight shelters intended to serve homeless individuals.

WHEREAS, the City does not currently have any land use standards expressly pertaining to overnight shelters, drop-in centers, and similar uses that provides services to homeless persons;

WHEREAS, the Puyallup City Council and City staff have spent a considerable amount of time hearing public comment and deliberating on homelessness-related issues;

WHEREAS, in recent years, City Council has received comments from numerous Puyallup residents spoke about impacts such as sanitation, security, theft, littering, illegal drug use, indecent exposure, and other similar effects that are occurring in and around local businesses and residential neighborhoods, including near an existing drop-in center that provides social services to homeless persons;

WHEREAS, homelessness is a regional and national issue that extends beyond the corporate boundaries of Puyallup;

WHEREAS, the City is continuing its efforts to work with and coordinate resources with Pierce County and regional social service agencies to address homelessness;

WHEREAS, City staff has presented this matter to the City's Planning Commission for consideration and Planning Commissioners conducted extensive deliberations on this matter;

WHEREAS, on April 5, 2016, the City Council adopted Ordinance 3110 that designated businesses that provide social services or housing to persons experiencing homelessness as a significant impact business subject to the requirements of Chapter 5.90 (Significant Impact
2 Business) of the Puyallup Municipal Code;

WHEREAS, in a letter dated December 6, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) informed the City “that the Department of Justice has initiated an investigation of the City of Puyallup’s (“City”) zoning and land use practices pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc, et seq”;

WHEREAS, the City is cooperating fully with the DOJ in its investigation and maintains that no violations of RLUIPA have occurred;

WHEREAS, the City’s Planning Commission reviewed this matter during Commission meetings on the following dates: 11/9/16, 12/14/16, 1/11/17, 6/14/17, and 6/21/17;

WHEREAS, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on this matter at its June 14, 2017 meeting and subsequently approved recommendations to the City Council at the Commission’s June 21, 2017 meeting;

WHEREAS, these recommendations were initially presented to the City Council on July 18, 2017 and August 29, 2017 to begin the process of City Council review of potential zoning regulations relative to drop-in centers and overnight shelters. City Council direction was received relative to proposed zoning text and map standards;

WHEREAS, further City staff analysis and potential zoning map standards were presented to City Council on January 23, 2018 and May 8, 2018.

In addition, City staff provided a presentation to City Council on April 17, 2018 regarding potential business regulations to address homeless-related land uses. Substantive City Council discussion and deliberation occurred during those meetings, including requests for additional research on appropriate standards and review procedures. On May 8, 2018, staff initially outlined draft code standards then being developed by the City of Bellevue to address the same homeless-related land uses. Given the relevancy and potential effectiveness of the draft Bellevue standards, City Council asked staff to provide further information about them and their possible applicability to Puyallup;

WHEREAS, staff then undertook further research and analysis regarding City of Bellevue draft code relative to impacts, issues and potential standards already identified for Puyallup. On July 10, 2018, staff provided an extensive presentation on the draft Bellevue standards, receiving specific input from City Council supporting the potential applicability of particular code concepts to related land uses in Puyallup;

WHEREAS, on August 21, 2018, City Council further considered specific draft code standards which address the permitting of daytime drop-in centers and overnight shelters based upon input from the above-cited Puyallup deliberative process as well as from City of Bellevue standards;

WHEREAS, pursuant to PMC Sec. 20.91.010, the City Council find that the proposed code amendments are consistent with the goals, objectives and policies of the City Comprehensive Plan;

WHEREAS, this ordinance is needed to preserve the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Puyallup while providing clear permit procedures for potential applicants of daytime drop-in center or overnight shelter uses;

and NOW THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Puyallup ordains as follows:

Section 1. The recitals set forth in the preamble of this ordinance are hereby adopted as findings of fact supporting the action taken herein.

Section 2. Title 20 of the Puyallup Municipal Code is hereby amended as contained in Exhibit A to this Ordinance;

Section 3. Publication. A summary of this ordinance shall be published as required by law.

Section 4. Severability – Construction. If a section, subsection, paragraph, sentence, clause, or phrase of this ordinance is declared unconstitutional or invalid for any reason by any court of competent jurisdiction, such decision shall not affect the validity of the remaining portions of this ordinance unless the invalidity destroys the purpose and intent of this ordinance. If the provisions of this ordinance are found to be inconsistent with other provisions of the Puyallup Municipal Code, this ordinance is deemed to control.

Section 6. Effective Date. This Ordinance shall take effect and be in force five days after its passage, approval, and publication as provided by law.