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Neighbors concerned about sex offender housing
MARYSVILLE — When John Mack purchased a home on State Avenue in late May, with the intention of using it to house sex offenders, he was not met with a positive response from neighbors or city officials.
Mack, who is the pastor of Arlington’s Holy Ghost Ministries, has made it a personal mission to provide housing for at-risk males, including sex offenders, in his eight Marysville, Everett and Arlington buildings. His most recent project includes the nearly 4,000-square-foot building on State Avenue, located next the home of Michelle Morck.
“Words really can’t describe how I feel right now,” said Morck, who after discovering the details of her soon-to-be neighbors, made the decision to move her family from the home they’ve owned for more than 20 years.
“I’m at a loss for words. Our lives are destroyed, they’ve been ripped out from under us,” said Morck. In addition to moving from her home, she said it has been a difficult case for realtors who view the new addition to the neighborhood as a source of devaluation.
“We have lost the value of our home. We can’t rent to anyone without telling them who is next door,” she said. The family also chose to close their at-home pastry business, Gracie’s In and Out Pastries.
“We had one teenage girl working for us and she was just wonderful, it was her first job and she was great. We had just hired another young girl when we found out,” said Morck, of the news that a sex offender house was moving in. “We just made the decision that we had no choice but to close the business. We just couldn’t risk anything happening to them.”
The Morck family closed their pastry business on June 22, listing the nearby sex offender housing unit as their reason for closing. They also made the decision to leave the home they’ve had for more than two decades.
But Mack believes that what he is doing is for the greater good.
“When there are a number of these guys living together, they can be accountable for each other’s actions,” said Mack, who noted than in the 10 years he has owned transitional housing units, there has never been a situation where a sex offender has been caught re-offending.
Bill Wolfe, of the Department of Corrections Marysville Unit, supported that statement by noting that in the years that Mack has owned homes in the area, he has called the DOC on multiple occasions to report only minor tenant violations.
At a Marysville City Council meeting on July 23, more than a dozen Marysville residents, including Morck and Mack, spoke on the issue of group sex offender housing. Several families complained that they were being forced to move because they keep the safety of their children in mind. The plight of those who spoke out against the group home had a sympathetic ear in Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.
“We are very much against the concept of these group houses with multiple sex offenders,” said Nehring. “I am 100 percent sympathetic to those living nearby. We are 100 percent focused on finding a way so that they won’t be there anymore.” Nehring said, adding that a state law passed in 2006 bars local governments from controlling the location of sex offender residences.
“I’m against it, but we’ve looked at it every which way and we can’t do anything about it. Our hands are tied,” said Nehring. “The state law needs to change.”
Mack argued that his homes are required to stay in residential neighborhoods. “Because of zoning requirements, the city forces me to be in these neighborhoods rather than an industrial zone. And a lot of these guys don’t have cars or licenses and so they have to be close to a bus line,” he said.
Nehring is determined to find a way to change that. “In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any sex offenders in our city. That’s unrealistic, but each time you add another into the home, you add another problem for the neighborhood,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when, they re-offend.”
In Marysville, there are currently 157 registered sex offenders. Although Arlington is also home to sex offender housing, there hasn’t been any complaints to city officials, according to Kristin Banfield, assistant city administrator.
City of Marysville officials have scheduled a meeting with state legislators to discuss the issue of sex offender housing, set for September.