Days after local residents packed a Christiana Town Board meeting to protest a possible sex offender home, plans for the home have dissolved.
Jim Lowrey is both a Town Board member and Realtor for the seller of the home at 1017 Prairie Queen Road. Lowrey confirmed in an email on June 14, three days after the meeting that drew about 60 people, that the buyer’s accepted offer had been canceled due to an unrelated technicality. He said a second buyer already had an accepted offer.
“Let’s hope that this conversation is over,” Lowrey wrote.
Town Clerk Kathy Wilson also confirmed the first buyer was out of the picture and said a community meeting to further discuss the sex offender placement process would not be scheduled.
Lowrey said at the June 11 Town Board meeting that the first buyer’s apparent plans to lease the property to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, as a residence for sex offenders, caught both him and the seller off guard.
The 4-bedroom, 1,600-square-foot home on about an acre of land is listed on Zillow.com for $198,000. It is zoned for single-family residential use, which Town Chairman Maureen Lien said allows for up to eight occupants who are not related.
Neighbors were alerted when Dane County Sheriff’s Deputy Jessamy Torres approached several of them recently, as she collected information about whether the property would be suitable for a sex offender home.
Torres, who attended the June 11 meeting accompanied by a Sheriff’s Office detective, said she spoke with three neighbors and did online research to see if the property met state requirements for being at least 1,500 feet from a school, daycare, church, youth center, place of worship or public park. It also could not share a property line with any home that was the primary residence of a child. Torres said she found the property met the statutes.
Her assessment was submitted in a report to the Dane County Sheriff’s Office, that was to be forwarded to the state Department of Health Services.
Issues raised by neighbors at the June 11 meeting included that Torres only talked with three of them; they said she should have reached out to more. Had she done that, neighbors said, Torres might not have missed the fact that Emily Lund, who owns a nearby house, is in the process of opening a daycare.
“You should have canvassed the entire 1,500 feet within that house. You didn’t get a fair sample,” one neighbor said.
Lund, who attended the June 11 meeting, said she has submitted an application to the state of Wisconsin and her daycare license is pending.
In response, Torres said approaching just three people met her statutory duty, and that she did ask them if there were any daycares operating nearby and was satisfied there were not. She said a pending daycare application would not have popped up on an online business database search that she did. She said she would submit an amended report with Emily Lund’s information.
Torres expressed sympathy for the neighbors.
“I honestly understand your concerns,” Torres said. “No one wants a sex offender living in their neighborhood.”
But the two Sheriff’s Office officials said their role was not to advocate for or against the home being used for sex offenders, but simply to gather requested information for the Department of Health Services. They also said it was not their role to investigate the person interested in buying the home, whom neighbors said has a long record of housing violations in another community.
Lowrey similarly said it is not his role as a Realtor to investigate potential buyers. In fact, he said, that would prejudice a sale and could be deemed illegal.
“I can’t do that,” Lowrey said.
Neighbors said the way in which they found out was disconcerting.
Town resident Dennis Lund, Emily Lund’s brother-in-law, said he heard from his son who heard from a friend that sex offenders might soon be moving in.
“I thought that was just terrible,” Lund said.
Another neighbor said that while his child isn’t currently living with him, that is being discussed, and having nearby sex offenders would likely end that conversation. And he questioned whether he would be able to sell his home in the future.
Neighbors said there are a lot of children living nearby, although not on an adjacent property nor within 1,500 feet.
“The school bus stops at just about every single neighbor. I hope that’s in your report,” one person said.
One neighbor said his children would need therapy if a sex offender moved in.
“Who is going to pay for that?” he asked.
Neighbors also said it’s the job of Dane County Supervisor Bob Salov, who attended the June 11 meeting, to advocate for them.
Salov said, in response, that he had talked before the meeting with officials at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and with the director of Dane County’s zoning office, to gain an understanding of the sex offender home-siting process.