Kelso Moratorium on Halfway Houses Not Renewed for Second Round | Government and politics
Kelso will not reinstate a moratorium preventing new halfway houses and other homes for multiple sex offenders to live together.
Kelso City Council voted 5-2 on Tuesday night against putting in place a six-month moratorium, which would have been the same as the one in place for the second half of 2021.
An emergency moratorium would have taken effect immediately and would have prohibited the opening of new halfway houses, boarding houses, residential treatment centers or other accommodations for two or more registered felons or sex offenders in Kelso. While the moratorium was in place, the city planner and other officials would have worked to draft a more permanent zoning ordinance that would enact more permanent boundaries.
“The extension of this moratorium is just so that we can investigate. Let our staff do the good job they can and embrace the moratorium so they can do more research,” said Councilman Keenan Harvey, who has been driving the moratorium and code changes since last March.
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The decision not to reinstate the moratorium marked a change of direction on the part of the city council. The board voted unanimously to introduce the new moratorium at its Jan. 18 meeting. Near the start of Tuesday’s meeting, a public hearing was held on the moratorium and all comments made were in favor of action.
Harvey and Lisa Alexander, the two council members who voted to keep the moratorium, said the measure would limit the Department of Corrections’ practice of transferring offenders from other counties to locations in Kelso.
“We can make it harder for those who are not from here to be dropped off here. We can protect our citizens and our children,” Alexander said.
Statements from councilors who voted against the law largely focused on how little it would actually change. The city has not received a new halfway house application since 2013. Any order or moratorium would not affect the handful of existing halfway houses in Kelso.
Councilman Brian Wood called it a “symbolic action”. Mayor Mike Karnofski and Councilwoman Kim Lefebvre said the Department of Corrections prefers the halfway house method because it makes it easier to track convicted felons during the first stage of their release.
“If you feel like you don’t want two here or three here or whatever, you have to think about what happens when these people have to go their separate ways,” Lefebvre said.
The most recent statewide data on where registered sex offenders live came from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police in 2017. At the time, Cowlitz County had the highest rate of registered sex offenders in the state with more than six living in the county for every 1,000 residents.
Other board actions
Kelso City Council approved two contract extensions to complete securing the land needed to build the South Kelso crossing at Tuesday’s meeting.
Walsh Consulting Group has requested a contract extension through April 2 to finalize right-of-way acquisitions and agreements with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. The contract extension adds $26,560 in labor costs to the original agreement with the city, bringing the total payment to $346,264.
The board also passed a $51,690 amendment to the consultant contract with HDR Engineering. The amended contract covers the costs of demolishing a storage facility the city purchased as part of the right-of-way acquisitions, moving storage units from that facility, expanding exhibits during the construction process. environmental approval and unexpected research challenges.
The entire $3.1 million contract with HDR Engineering is eligible for reimbursement from the state transportation budget.
The South Kelso Railroad Crossing project is a $25 million investment in the creation of a new overpass over the tracks near the Three Rivers Golf Course. The overpass would replace two street level overpasses and extend Hazel Street west to connect to South River Road.
- Reviewed a presentation from the City’s Pavement Management System on the current condition of Kelso’s roads and possible improvement budgets.
- Successfully completed a boundary line adjustment for an adjoining wall at 314 Oak St.
- Directed city staff to work on a zoning overlay for the West Main District as part of the upcoming code review.