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Kent officials still pursuing action against sex offender homes
A dispute continues between the city of Kent and at least one operator of group homes that house sex offenders.
City officials initially in May notified operators of 10 group homes that they must shut down because they are in violation of the city code for being too close to schools, child care facilities or other sex offender homes.
"This matter is a priority of the City Attorney’s Office, and we are in the process of taking action," said Acting City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick in a Sept. 26 email. "This is a very complex matter, and there are a number of property owners involved.
"The city may bring a civil code enforcement proceeding against those who refuse to comply with the law, or, we may take the matter straight to the (King County) Superior Court. Either way, there is a significant amount of ground work that the city must lay before it proceeds.
"We anticipate taking enforcement action within the next couple of weeks."
One home has complied with the code, Fitzpatrick said. Two other homes are expected to soon come into compliance.
But Eddie Weber, who operates six of the homes, plans to keep fighting the city to keep his home open for sex offenders.
"Unfortunately, Eddie Weber, who operates a number of the homes, has told us he has no intention of complying with the law," Fitzpatrick said. "Several property owners whose houses Eddie Weber is renting have indicated they are willing to comply with the city’s zoning ordinance by attempting to evict Eddie Weber and the residents of these houses."
So far, however, no property owner has evicted Weber, Fitzpatrick said.
Weber said during an earlier interview that he opened his first clean-and-sober house for recovering drug addicts and alcoholics in 2001 in Kent. He now operates 11 in town. He claims the homes are still set up to be clean-and-sober homes. A few of the group homes are in a small industrial area northwest of the intersection of Central Avenue and Willis Street.
"The city's action with the sex offenders is both harmful and shortsighted," Weber said in a recent Kent Reporter letter to the editor. "Forcing them out of the clean and sober housing, where they have been living successfully for years with zero problems, accomplishes what?
"If the city pushes them out of housing into the streets, they risk creating a dangerous situation. If the city doesn't want the current arrangement to continue, what is their solution? Just pushing them out of the city is not a solution. These people have served their time and are just trying to live their lives as best they can."
City staff members have been preparing the necessary documentation to support an enforcement action, but have continued to seek voluntary compliance from the violators, Fitzpatrick said.
City officials found out that many homes, initially set up to house recovering drug addicts and alcoholics, had over time transitioned to housing sex offenders. State and federal laws limit city's regulations of the clean-and-sober homes but not restrictions of locations of group homes for sex offenders.
One of the homes housed 17 sex offenders and sits less than 500 feet from a child care facility and 400 feet from a public school.
If the violators do not take the necessary steps to bring the homes into compliance, the city may opt to file suit in King County Superior Court or pursue code violation actions which carry a fine of $500 per day, Fitzpatrick said.