November 13, 2014

Koshkonong creates sexual offender residency policy

11-13-2014 Wisconsin:

KOSHKONONG — The Town of Koshkonong Board of Supervisors on Wednesday enacted an ordinance restricting the placement of sex offenders near areas where children congregate.

The ordinance will prohibit registered offenders from residing within 2,000 feet of locations where children congregate, including schools or any other facility for children, public parks, park facilities, pathways or recreational trails where children routinely congregate, daycare centers, residential care centers for children, playgrounds or recreational areas, athletic fields and public swimming pools.

It takes effect immediately, although any offenders already living in the town will not be affected.

The measure was a response to a proposal for a home owned by John Anhalt on Poeppel Road to house convicted registered sexual offenders.

Anhalt reported at the Oct. 22 town board meeting that the Wisconsin Department of Corrections denied his request for the Poeppel Road home, south of Fort Atkinson, due to a lack of funding.

When township residents raised concerns about the possible placement of sex offenders, the town board began discussion of an ordinance regulating such placement at its Oct. 8 meeting. Altogether, it considered the ordinance at four meetings.

Koshkonong’s ordinance was modeled after the South Milwaukee ordinance stating that convicted sex offenders could not reside within 1,000 feet of schools, parks or other areas in which children congregate. That ordinance was challenged and sent to the state Court of Appeals, which upheld it as constitutional.

“We doubled it and hope it doesn’t get contested,” Town of Koshkonong Board of Supervisors Chairman Fred Walling said. “Anything greater than that and we might lose.”

The chairman noted that even at 2,000 feet the town might not win on an appeal.

“We stretched it to the limit and put the kitchen sink on it and tried to get as much as we could,” Walling said.

Such measures are popular ways to limit the number of sex offenders within a municipality as they severely reduce the number of residences available to those convicted as a sex offender, and effectively the number of registered sex offenders living within the community’s borders.

Wisconsin law dictates that an offender who has completed his or her sentence must be placed in the county in which he or she last resided prior to incarceration. However, finding suitable placements within the county often can be challenging due to municipal ordinances restricting their placement, which are becoming more popular, often making rural locations more desirable for the program.

Per case law, the town does have the ability to enact “laws” by its police powers that protect the safety and welfare of its residences, which would include regulating the location of sex predators within the town.

Town attorney Tim Fenner was asked at an October town meeting to investigate whether the board of supervisors has the authority to enact an ordinance to regulate the residency of sexual offenders within the town in order to prevent the group home from housing multiple offenders.

He later explained that an ordinance regulating sex offender residency is not uncommon and many municipalities do it by zoning. However, the Town of Koshkonong does not have zoning authority because all zoning is regulated by Jefferson County.

Over the course of the four meetings, Fenner, who was not present Wednesday, pointed out that the challenge was to craft an ordinance that would stand up to a challenge in court.

In 2013, the Town of Hebron Board of Supervisors enacted an ordinance prohibiting sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of locations where children congregate, including private or public schools, parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, daycare centers and campgrounds.

The adopted measure in Hebron was based off of the City of Jefferson’s ordinance restricting the residence of sex offenders within 1,500 feet of any location where children congregate. ..Source.. by Ryan Whisner

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