Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Coeur d'Alene Sex Offender Wakeup Call -- Again

Steve Badraun posted an insightful comment on The Spokesman-Review Associate Editor and Columnist Dave Oliveria's July 18, 2005,Huckleberries Online weblog. He recounted a personal observation of some behavior facilitated by the failure of the Coeur d'Alene city government to enforce its existing zoning ordinances.

Mr. Badraun was not the first to recognize that the city government appears to care little about using its city zoning ordinances for one of their intended purposes -- protection of residents.

Over a year ago, several residents of Greenstone's Coeur d'Alene Place learned that four convicted felons, all still on state supervised probation or parole, were living in a rental house in Coeur d'Alene Place. When the community objected to the housing arrangement, we were told that the city's definition of family as used in its zoning ordinances was probably unenforceable. Apparently the Coeur d'Alene city government believed that "four convicted felons on probation or parole and not related by blood, marriage, or adoption" living together without onsite supervision fits the traditional definition of a family. More accurately, the city was scared stiff that if it tried to enforce the existing zoning ordinance, it would be sued by convicted felons. But, the Coeur d'Alene Place residents were assured, the ordinances would be fixed quickly.

The ordinances were not fixed quickly. The ordinances were not fixed at all. Those same deficient ordinances are now supporting the quiet housing of registered sex offenders in Coeur d'Alene. It's quite clear the city is in no hurry to fix its ordinances. After all, law-abiding citizens represent little or no political threat to the city. Landlords and developers with a financial stake in residential housing, on the other hand, would be in court at the drop of a subpoena if the city even looked like it might try and protect the less influential law-abiding families of Coeur d'Alene.

But there is some action every concerned citizen can take.

First, go to the Idaho Sex Offender Registry and look up the registered sex offenders in your zip code. Make a note of the residence addresses of each offender that you believe is too close to you, your child's school, or their playground.

Then go to the Kootenai County Parcel Information Search website. Under "Search By", search by "Street Name", using the name of the street on which the offender lives. The search may return several entries, but the street number is on the return. Click on the "Serial Number" for the street address of interest. That should take you to a page entitled "Parcel Information Search Results", and the public information about the property of interest should be there. That information includes the name and mailing address of the property owner. If you feel so inclined, send a polite, non-threatening letter to the property owner objecting to the use of his property to house registered sex offenders.

The law-abiding residents of Coeur d'Alene should also apply some serious pressure to the Coeur d'Alene City Council and Mayor to fix the ordinances and enforce them aggressively.

What would zoning ordinance repair and enforcement do? It would not harm builders, developers, and landlords. It would simply require them to apply for a special use permit when they want to house "unorthodox" families such as convicted felons on probation and parole or registered sex offenders together, unsupervised, among the more traditional families in Coeur d'Alene.

So, why would some builders, developers, and landlords object to needing a special use permit? Because obtaining the permit would require a public hearing, and that public hearing would expose them and prospective tenants to public scrutiny. The last thing someone seeking a special use permit wants to attend is a public hearing where an outraged public speaks out assertively against the proposed use of the property.

The public hearing process is currently our best opportunity to force into the sunlight some of the interpretations being applied to the term "single family housing" by the developer-friendly City of Coeur d'Alene.


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