By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

Whitewater could join a growing number of Wisconsin communities and soon have on its books an ordinance limiting where convicted sex offenders can live within the municipal limits.

City officials had a preliminary discussion of the issue at a Common Council meeting Sept. 7. It served as a precursor to the presentation of a first-draft ordinance when the elected body holds its next meeting Sept. 21.

State and federal law does provide certain protections for convicted sex offenders who re-enter society after serving out their sentence. For example, offenders can return to the community they resided within at the time of the offense with the caveat their name be included on a publicly available registry.

In turn, municipalities have a degree of latitude in determining where registered offenders can and cannot live within the community.

A number of municipalities across the state enacted ordinances within the past decade to set stipulations on where offenders can live. Some of the ordinances were challenged in court because they were deemed too restrictive.

City Manager Cameron Clapper pointed to those prior legal challenges as a reason why Whitewater did not have an ordinance of its own on its books.

“At times, there’s been issues with legality,” Clapper said at the council meeting. “Whitewater has been reluctant to establish an ordinance.”

With more recent clarity around the issue, however, Clapper said he and other city officials are comfortable having an ordinance on the books at this time.

“Today, with a greater knowledge of the legal landscape regarding sex offender ordinances, city staff members — especially the city attorney — have worked to develop the ordinance and would seek Common Council action to adopt it,” Clapper wrote in a memo.

The city will likely create so-called “child safety zones” in different areas of the city and prohibit registered sex offenders from living near such sites as schools, daycare facilities and parks. The exact proximity will likely be hammered out in the forthcoming ordinance.

Wally McDonell, the city attorney, said he will draft the ordinance and present more details on proposed parameters at the upcoming meeting.

“It’s hard to say how (the ordinance) shapes up in Whitewater. It’s a little bit of a work in progress,” McDonell said. “Obviously, we can’t zone out the whole city.”

Council member Jim Allen said he was in favor of devoting city staff time toward crafting the would-be ordinance.

“I, for one, would greatly appreciate looking further into this,” Allen said.

In other business Sept. 7, the Whitewater Common Council:

– Named resident Miguel Aranda to the board of directors overseeing the city’s Community Development Authority. Aranda succeeds Greg Meyer, who recently resigned from the board.

– Heard a report from resident Sherry Stanek on a planned effort within the city’s Urban Forestry Commission. Stanek said the group is helping initiate the creation of an arboretum at Starin Park.

A matching Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources grant in the amount of $25,000 could help bring the project to fruition. Stanek said she envisions workshops and outdoor classes taking place at the park.

“It’s a perfect place to start an arboretum because we have so many mature trees and such a variety of trees,” Stanek said.

 
 

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