Whitewater Considering Convicted Sex Offender Residency Restrictions

By Al Stanek
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff

The City of Whitewater’s prospective attempts to regulate where convicted sex offenders can reside after being released from prison got an initial review at the September 21 Common Council meeting. A draft ordinance was distributed with potential passage of a sex offender residency ordinance as early as the next scheduled Common Council meeting.

City Attorney Wally McDonell advised council members that although Wisconsin requires convicted sex offenders to register with the state it allows individual communities to decide if they want to pass ordinances regulating where a convicted sexual offender may live within a given community. The City of Whitewater does not currently have such an ordinance.

The draft ordinance included several potential components designating specific “child safety zones” where sexual offenders would be prohibited from taking up residence. It also would prohibit residency by a convicted sex offender who was not a city resident at the time that his or her offense occurred. State and federal requirements allow for a convicted sex offender to return to the community in which they resided at the time of the offense.

Consideration of a sex offender residency ordinance was initially suggested by the Whitewater Police Department. The department reported the results of a preliminary review indicating that roughly 150 Wisconsin municipalities have sexual offender residency ordinances. That compares to the 600 individual city and village members reported by the Wisconsin League of Municipalities. It was suggested that communities that lack a sex offender residency ordinance may experience a disproportionate influx of released sex offenders.

City Attorney McDonell urged careful review of the proposed ordinance and pointed to the potential liability if the city passed an overly restrictive ordinance that could be challenged on US Constitutional grounds.

The issue first arose at the September 7 Common Council meeting and several people provided public input at that time. The ability to provide input electronically at the September 21 meeting was hampered because the meeting was not able to be livestreamed on smart phone or computer. The meeting was broadcast on cable and the recording is available to be viewed on the city website.

In other business a request from Johns Disposal for a 4.4% rate increase for garbage pick-up was approved, the lakes drawdown project was reported as being on schedule, and the Landmarks Commission presented a report with concerns regarding the upkeep of the Effigy Mounds Preserve, located west of Indian Mound Parkway, and the potential need to relocate visitor pathways. Parks & Recreation Director Eric Boettcher is researching requirements and options and will report back.

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