October 2, 2011

Sex Offender Village Update: Campione to host forum on sex-offender village

10-2-2011 Florida:

Community fears for kids, property values

SORRENTO — Talk of a possible "sex-offender" village sprouting in east Lake County is sparking protests and a community forum at an elementary school.

While no firm plans for a village have been announced, a group of Sorrento moms aims to ensure the concept never takes root. They have circulated petitions, launched a Facebook page in opposition and will pass out leaflets today at State Road 46 and Plymouth-Sorrento Road.

The moms rallied after Barbara Farris of Tampa leaked her plans to develop special neighborhoods in remote areas that would be populated exclusively by sex offenders and mentioned Sorrento as a possible location.

County Commissioner Leslie Campione, who urged fellow commissioners last week to enact ordinances that would push sex offenders farther away from parks and schools and prevent a cluster of sex offenders anywhere in Lake, said she decided to host a forum this week because of widespread concern over the idea.

The forum will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria of Sorrento Elementary School on Wallick Road.

'Far enough from civilization'

Farris said she wanted to cluster sex offenders together so they could be monitored more easily and contained in locations far away from school bus stops, parks, playgrounds and other places where kids congregate.

She drew the ire of Sorrento residents when she said the area was "far enough from civilization…" Campione, too, said she was opposed to the sex-offender village concept, which she labeled ridiculous and dangerous.

In an email to Campione, a pastor at a nearby church said he understood the need for housing for sex offenders, who cannot live closer than 1,000 feet from schools and parks and often are rejected by landlords.

"I know that it is possible for a registered sex-offender to purchase a home, and it could be next door to my own home," said Richard Burguet, pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church. "But there is a huge difference between a village of residences and one single-family home interspersed into a healthy neighborhood."

Residents fear shattered dreams

Another called the proposal an "atrocity" and noted that petitions opposing Farris' concept of a sex-offender village in east Lake are "in every local crevice of Sorrento, from the stores to the Day Care."

Priscilla Bernardo-Drugge urged commissioners to fight the concept.

"Over the past 10 to 15 years, this community has worked tirelessly to bring about a plan for a sustainable future for ourselves. This is highly dependent on the ability to capitalize not only on ecotourism but also the access to Disney and other attractions that the Wekiva Parkway will bring," Bernardo-Drugge said.

She added: "Those dreams will be permanently shattered if we become branded as 'Molesterville' or 'Pedotown…' " ..Source.. by Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel

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