Planning Commission discusses zoning issues with boarding houses

Megan Rozsa

At Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, members discussed issues with the current zoning regulations.

Gary Locke, director of community development, brought the issue before the planning commission and all city council members. He said the major issue with boarding and rooming houses in Kent is how lax the zoning is because of the spread of illegal and legal boarding houses. Owners of the boarding and rooming houses are illegally putting more people in than the house can safely hold. No one in the city is coming to inspect these houses, so the owners keep getting away with it, he said.

One of the biggest issues is parking. When there are 10 people living in a six-person house, odds are, there are only six parking spaces available.

“The way we regulate rooming houses is rather substandard,” Locke said. “It leaves a weak regulatory structure in dealing with them because we don’t really regulate them at all. The zones aren’t doing a good job regulating.”

Several commission members brought up the fact that many of the boarding houses in Kent were grandfathered into the system. They said this should disqualify them from any changes the new zoning regulations may make.

A related issue with housing was the definition of a family. Locke said families are defined through the zoning code as people related either through blood, marriage or adoption. It also states that no more than two unrelated people may live in a house together.

John Kuhar, Ward 4 council member, disagrees with this rule.

“There could be four young people who want to buy a house,” he said, “and you can’t legally stop them. But they are being told they can’t live there because they aren’t related. This really boils down to code enforcement.”

Other commission members suggested the rental properties be run like businesses.

This issue will be further addressed at the Oct. 7 meeting.