Michelle Morck, 44, said she didn't even know sex offenders lived next door until June, when a state Department of Corrections officer knocked on her door to say a level-3 sex offender was looking at moving into the home. A level-3 sex offender is considered to be a high risk to reoffend. She has since learned that three convicted sex offenders live in the house.
Morck said she and her family are moving out of the north Marysville home they've lived in for the past 20 years. She also closed her home-based business, Gracie's In and Out Pastries, on June 22. The bakery staff included two teenage employees. Among its customers were young kids who walked to the shop and families with children that would visit after church or before soccer games, Morck said.
"As parents, my husband and I looked at each other and said, 'We can't (stay open) knowing that. We can't take a chance on something happening,'" she said.
Arlington pastor John Mack of Holy Ghost Revival Ministries has established three other houses for sex offenders in Marysville. Some have as many as 10 registered sex offenders.
"We try to be sensitive to the community, but obviously no matter where we put our houses it's going to agitate people," said Mack, 58. "The main thing is if the public and the city officials are really unhappy about having group homes in residential areas they need to work on zoning ordinances to allow people like me to establish them in commercial areas."
Morck was one of about a dozen people who addressed the council Monday with concerns about living near the home, said city administrator Gloria Hirashima.
"One thing that has struck me by talking to residents and business owners is this belief that their sense of safety has been ripped away," she said. "Some people shared with the council that within the course of two weeks they made the decision to move out of Marysville."
There are currently 157 registered sex offenders living in Marysville, a city with a population of about 60,000 people. The Legislature passed laws in 2006 that prohibit cities from restricting housing for sex offenders.
Mack House of Western Washington has offered transitional clean-and-sober housing for men for the past decade. The eight homes are located in Marysville, Everett and Arlington. Not every person living in the homes is a registered sex offender, said Mack, who has battled drug addiction and spent time in prison. The men pay a low-cost rent, are encouraged to attend church and are not allowed to drink alcohol or do drugs.
The homes are necessary because people transitioning out of prison aren't always able to find adequate housing, Mack said. If they become homeless, they're more likely to reoffend, he added. City officials understand that sex offenders are able to move into and live in the city, Hirashima said.
The issues that residents have recently raised are about having groups of sex offenders living in one place, she added.
The city has contacted the state Department of Corrections to share concerns from residents and has set up a meeting for early September with lawmakers to discuss the impact of establishing high-capacity sex offender homes in Marysville.
"This is a very important issue to our community so we will bring this up with people who do have the ability to look at this and legislate differently or perhaps communicate with us why they think it's important and why they did what they did," Hirashima said.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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