Inver Grove Heights approves interim ordinance

City joins others in placing restrictions on where sex offenders can reside

Inver Grove Heights is the latest city in the east metro to pass an ordinance restricting where convicted Level 3 sex offenders can reside. 

City attorney Tim Kuntz explained that because the city council was considering an interim ordinance at its Sept. 26 meeting, a public hearing was not required. He emphasized that this was a temporary ordinance, and the city is planning to study the matter further and consider passing a permanent ordinance in 2017. 

Under the interim ordinance, it would be unlawful for a Level 3 sex offender to establish a permanent or temporary residence within 1,000 feet of any school, licensed child-care facility, religious facility, public park or library in the suburb.

Kuntz said these areas were defined in the ordinance. 

“What is thematic or central to each of their definitions is that they are identified as a place where children more probably than not would congregate or assemble,” Kuntz said.

Individuals categorized as Level 3 are registered predatory offenders who before they’re released from prison were determined to be at a higher risk of re-offending. After they have served their sentences, there is a community meeting in the city where they are going to live so that residents have information about them.

The intent of Inver Grove Heights’ interim ordinance is to prohibit a Level 3 offender from establishing a residencey within a certain distance from the prohibited areas.

Kuntz added the intent with child-care facilities was to cover both the in-home and center facilities. 

Distance would be determined by following a straight line from the outer property line of the residence of the designated predatory offender to the nearest outer property line of the school, licensed child-care facility, religious facility, public park or library property.  

Circles on a map show the restricted areas and the 1,000 feet around them.

City Administrator Joe Lynch said the map was purely illustrative, and it was not distributed to the media. 

If the police department is notified of an offender moving into the area, officers will check with staff to see what falls within the 1,000 feet of the residence the offender gave to police.

Designated predatory offenders can live within a prohibited area if he or she had the permanent or temporary residence prior to Sept. 26, 2016, is a minor, or if the prohibited space opened after permanent or temporary residence was established.

A violation of this ordinance will be a misdemeanor.

Lynch said there had been an individual who came into the community and the city had no preparation. Lynch said South St. Paul recently discovered that it also needed clearer guidelines and restrictions when it had three registered sex offenders move there in three months. 

After a year has passed, the interim ordinance will expire and the city council will need to adopt an amendment to the city’s code regarding residency location of predatory offenders to make it a permanent law. 

 

Community safety; possible legal challenges

Mayor George Tourville said there were positive aspects to holding community meetings when Level 3 sex offenders move into a city.

“Actually, they say a lot of cities become safer by having the [predatory offender] hearings [because] a lot of people get some information,” Tourville said. 

Council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech said she was concerned about whether ordinances restricting where sex offenders can live would hold up in court. She also said she wonders if these ordinances really work.

“It sounded like at the meeting that ... this type of [restriction] doesn’t do anything to make your community safer,” Piekarski Krech said. “What makes your community safer is people’s awareness and education.”

She said that like most folks, she doesn’t want a convicted sexual predator living next door to her or even in her neighborhood.

Piekarski Krech also pointed out that not all sex offenders prey on children. She asked if the new temporary ordinance actually does anything for the city or would it be more beneficial to concentrate the city’s money and efforts on education and training. 

She said she was impressed the police department makes four unannounced visits on every registered sex offender no matter what level they are ranked. 

Since this ordinance is only for Level 3 predatory offenders, Piekarski Krech said there could be many more offenders who are living within 10 feet of the school, church or park.

“I’m not totally opposed to this but I guess my thing is I’d truly like to make our community safer and not just do something that ‘oh gee this sounds really wonderful because they passed this law,’ but what did it really do for the safety of our community,” Piekarski Krech said. 

Tourville said there have been discussions about the Inver Grove Heights School District and the city doing a joint presentation regarding safety and sex offenders living in the community. They’ve also considered additional presentations with the Jacob Wetterling Foundation. 

Lynch said this ordinance gives the council and city time to discuss the issues raised by Piekarski Krech.

Even without the temporary ordinance, there would still be notifications about Level 3 offenders moving in or out of the city.

The city has no authority over where halfway houses for sexual offenders can be. Lynch said the city is notified when licenses are given but can’t impact the location of the houses.

He said this creates a legal challenge if someone wanted to open a halfway house in a restricted area and chooses to fight the city’s interim ordinance in court. 

Council member Tom Bartholomew said while the new interim ordinance came up quickly, it gives the city protection while staff and the city attorney review the issue further.

South St. Paul recently approved the first reading of a permanent ordinance to restrict where convicted Level 3 sex offenders could live in the city. 

South St. Paul’s ordinance would not allow sex offenders to have a permanent or temporary residence within 1,500 feet of any public or private schools, places of worship that provide regular educational programs like Sunday School, licensed child care facilities and sexually oriented businesses.

 

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-478-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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