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Council reassures citizens of house’s future potential

Members of the Buckley City Council reassured a concerned audience that city-owned property on Rosewood Drive will not be converted into a halfway house for prisoners.

More than a dozen citizens were present for the Feb. 9 Council meeting, responding to a rumor that the property would be used to transition convicted felons, including sex and drug offenders, from prison life to free society. Buckley residents Paul Goldsberry, Nancy Maude and Patricia Burns presented 60 signatures in opposition to use of the property as a halfway house, collected from people living in the surrounding neighborhood.

A main concern with the rumored use was the potential negative impact on neighborhood safety and property values.

“We’re not against the idea of halfway houses in general,” Goldsberry said. “There is definitely a need within society for them. But we do not believe that they should be located in residential communities. If possible, they should be in commercial space where there’s more opportunity for safeguards.”

Mayor Pat Johnson and council members informed Goldsberry and the audience that leasing the Taylor property to operators of a halfway house is not an option council has discussed.

Council had discussed three options for the Taylor property: to demolish the house on the property and sell the land, to sell the house as a fixer-upper or to lease the house and land to an organization offering transitional housing to low-income and homeless families, councilman Randy Reed said.

The broad meaning of the term “transitional housing,” and a subsequent misinterpretation could have started rumor that the property would be used for a halfway house, Goldsberry said.

“I don’t think the community would have a problem with help for people who need a hand,” he said.

The city purchased the Taylor property from private owner Loraine Taylor in 2009, so that they would be able to easily expand the adjacent Wastewater Treatment Plant when the time came, Johnson said. The property, which has sat unoccupied since that time, is in a residential neighborhood and close to a daycare center.

Recently, the house on the property was vandalized, including extensive stripping of copper wire from the walls. The damage added to existing problems that put the property in violation of building codes, like those dealing with asbestos. Insurance will cover the cost of repairs, but additional upgrades will come at city expense.

On Jan. 12, the council moved to restore the Taylor property to its former condition, finding that insurance reimbursement would be greater to restore the house than to bulldoze it. The council is awaiting repair estimates before deciding whether to restore and sell the property as a fixer-upper, or lease it to an organization.

The council told Goldsberry, Maude and Burns they would be notified of future discussions about the Taylor property.

In other action, the council:

• unanimously approved an ordinance making permanent the extended time limit for subdivision bonds and land use permits. This action is intended to allow developers time to regain financial stability in the current market to complete land improvement projects required by the city.

• approved a formal lease agreement with Multicare for the hospital to use Buckley Hall for its Women, Infants and Children program.

• approved an agreement with the waste disposal firm Parker Ag to transport and dispose of the city’s biosolid waste.

• approved support of a proclamation of the Pierce County Library READS program.

• affirmed the expense incurred on the emergency repair to the City Hall’s furnace system.

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