After it was discovered a convicted sex offender was living near Prairie Elementary School earlier this year, the Waunakee Village board has discussed the option of adopting an ordinance prohibiting convicted sex offenders from residing within a certain distance from schools and other centers for children.
Village Attorney Bryan Kleinmaier researched other municipalities with ordinances and reported to the board Monday. Just two Dane County municipalities have such ordinances – Sun Prairie and Cottage Grove. Kleinmaier said he researched those, along with others in Reedsburg and Brookfield.
Kleinmaier said if the village were going to consider one as a model, he would recommend Sun Prairie’s. That ordinance was first adopted in 2008, and after a federal court decision overturned a residency restriction, it was revised. The ordinance also references different materials to support it.
Kleinmaier noted that different levels of sex offenses exist, and if a sex offender is deemed violent, state laws are already in place restricting placement near a school. Municipal ordinances cannot further restrict a violent sex offender’s placement, but they can restrict other offenders from residing within 500 feet from childcare centers, athletic fields, schools and playgrounds. Sun Prairie’s ordinance also prohibits sex offenders from loitering near such locations and from renting properties within 500 feet of protected areas.
Village officials asked Waunakee Police Lt. Adam Kreitzman, who will be Waunakee’s Police Chief after May 29, about his opinion.
Kreitzman said from an enforcement standpoint, police can issue a fine. But forcing those who violate the ordinance to comply could require time and court costs.
“I agree with Adam [Kreitzman],” Kleinmaier said. “Enforcement becomes an issue. This would be a citation issue. The village would have the ability to seek injunction relief.”
Kleinmaier said a number a number of steps would be involved to remove a sex offender from a residence and the village would incur costs.
Trustee Nila Frye expressed doubts.
“I’m thinking it’s a just adding another layer of bureaucracy that’s going to cost the village when the Department of Corrections would do it,” she said.
Village President Chris Zellner said he was unsure if the ordinance would help protect families and children. He noted that repeat drunk-driving offenders are not restricted from living in certain areas. Zellner said he is not sure the village would see better results with its own ordinance than the Department of Justice’s own restrictions.
Asked after the meeting whether the Department of Corrections is required to abide by a local residency ordinance when placing an offender, Kleinmaier said he is not aware of any state statute that would do so.
In an email to the Tribune, Kleinmaier added, “With that said, I think in all likelihood DOC would work with a local police department when it comes to placing the offender, because DOC likely will not want to place an offender at a residence when that placement violates the municipal ordinance.”
The village board will discuss the ordinance at a future meeting before deciding whether or not to adopt it.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board:
-gave final approval to a rezone, development agreement and certified survey map for Kwik Trip at the west side of Hwy. Q and Peaceful Valley Parkway. The rezone includes a deed restriction requiring the use be for a convenience store.
-heard from village department heads about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
-agreed to apply for a loan from the Board of Commissioner of Public Lands State Trust Fund Loan Program to reimburse library construction costs originally paid by the general fund.
-learned of a new feature on the village’s website with a map of each development project underway and a description of each.