By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

The Village of Waterford’s nearly year-old registered sex offender ordinance is due for another overhaul.

The changes, which were discussed at a Village Board meeting Monday, come at a time when a number of municipalities have faced lawsuits at the hands of attorneys representing registered offenders.

A federal court has already ruled Pleasant Prairie’s boundaries were too prohibitive, and other municipalities — including Milwaukee and Waukesha — have cases that could wind up in federal court later this year.

Last year, Village Attorney Marcy Hasenstab worked with the Village Board in drafting a municipal ordinance that extended restrictions beyond state standards.

Before last year’s ordinance, registered sex offenders were prohibited from living within 750 feet of areas frequented by children, including schools, daycare centers and parks. The ordinance currently on the village’s books has set that threshold at 1,500 feet.

The amendment calls for returning to the 750-foot threshold, though other incidental provisions have been incorporated into the document.

By virtue of its layout, most of the village is currently included in the sex offender prohibition area since Waterford hosts a number of schools and parks throughout its municipal boundaries.

The same scenario has been found in Milwaukee, Pleasant Prairie and Waukesha.

Attorneys representing the registered sex offenders have argued the radiuses drawn around each of the communities equates to banishment.

In each of the three communities, registered sex offenders have reportedly wound up homeless because of limited options within the respective municipalities.

After reviewing case law and examining what has been occurring in the communities facing lawsuits, Hasenstab said the village might need to rethink its ordinances to stave off potential lawsuits in the future.

“If you don’t leave any place for them to live, you banish them,” Hasenstab said. “And banishment is unconstitutional.”

At this week’s Village Board meeting, officials had a first reading on a revised ordinance Hasenstab drafted.

No action was taken, and Hasenstab said further changes would be incorporated into the document when it was presented to the board for further analysis and a possible vote on July 24.

During this week’s preliminary discussion, board members offered a variety of comments as the goal of striking a balance between keeping children safe and staying away from the banishment threshold continued.

“Is this as tough as we think we can go?” Trustee Don Houston said. “We all want to protect our kids. We want to be as stringent as we can.”

Village President Jim Schneider said he viewed the revisions under the microscope as fluid and subject to possible changes in the future as the issue continues to evolve.

“We may be back to doing this again in a year,” Schneider said. “If we are, we’ll deal with it at that time.”

Hasenstab, from her expert standpoint, offered similar sentiments and cautioned the board that the changes under consideration did not come with a guarantee lawsuits would not be filed against the village in the future.

“We do the best we can with the information we have,” Hasenstab said.

Comments

comments