Council wants more study of sex offender rules

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – A proposed ordinance tightening the residency restrictions for registered sex offenders in the city needs a little more study.

That was the decision of the City Council Tuesday, which referred the proposal to the Public Safety Committee for further study.

City Attorney Crystal Fieber outlined the proposed changes for the council.

She said the changes had been requested by Alderman Greg Hildebrand.

“I just wanted to bring Plymouth more into line with what’s around us,” Hildebrand told his colleagues. “There’s some things around town I’d like to bring forward and bring more in line with the surrounding communities around us.”

There were two major changes which seemed to concern some council members.

One was a ban on any registered sex offenders living within 2,000 feet of a school, park, playground, licensed day care center, recreational trail or “other place designated by the city as a place where children are known to congregate.”

The other was a provision prohibiting any registered sex offender from living in the city if they were not a resident of the city at the time they committed their offense.

“I have a hard time with that because basically you’re limiting where they can live and where they can go,” Alderman Jim Sedlacek said of what the ordinance terms an “original domicile restriction.”

“If every community in the state passed the same type of wording in their ordinance, then a sex offender could only live in the city where they did before. That might make it very difficult for that person to find work. I struggle with that.”

Alderman Shawn Marcom wondered whether the 2,000-foot restriction on where a sex offender may live would leave anywhere available in the city. “That’s got to be some very narrow zones for allowable space, I’m guessing.”

“Is there any place in the city where anybody could move?” Alderman Jim Faller asked. “Or would they have to move into the industrial park and put up a pole building to live in?”

He pointed out that the city of Brookfield has a 1,500-foot residency restriction.

Fieber said the 2,000-foot restriction was based on the city of Sheboygan Falls ordinance, but allowed that there is no rule in state law and added, “Right now we have a mishmash of regulations across municipalities regarding residency.”

Sedlacek also raised concerns about another proposed change which would prohibit landlords from renting to registered sex offenders within the restricted zone and would subject them to a fine of up to $1,000 if they did.

He asked how landlords would be made aware of the restrictions and notified who they could rent to and where.

City Administrator Brian Yerges suggested that notice could be sent out to landlords with the next property tax bills.

“One of the big things will be the probation officer working with the person (sex offender) being released,” Police Chief Jeff Tauscheck advised the council. “They have to approve where a person lives.”

He recalled that when the city made changes to the sex offender residency restrictions a number of years ago, probation and parole officials warned against making the rules too strict and running the risk of driving released sex offenders underground.

“I would feel a whole lot better if I had more information,” Alderman David Williams admitted. “Especially if I could see specifically what areas of the city are prohibited for (sex offender) residency. I’d specifically like to know how much of the city is covered by this and get some input from probation and parole.”

Tauscheck recommended referring it to the Public Safety Committee. He noted that officials from the Department of Corrections could be invited to that meeting to give input.

The council unanimously followed that recommendation.

A final resolution authorizing up to $2.75 million in industrial revenue bonds for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul won council approval.

Fieber said the bonding is to help finance a 34,000-square foot addition to the St. Vincent de Paul store at 2225 Eastern Ave.

She emphasized that the bonds are not a borrowing by the city and the debt is not an obligation of the city.

“The city is a conduit for this fi- nancing,” she explained, enabling St. Vincent de Paul to borrow at a lower interest rate. “It will be an obligation of the organization, not the city.”

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