New sex offender ordinance passes

Elements include 500-foot child safety zones and elimination of an immediate family clause
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

The Belgium Village Board repealed its sex offender ordinance and approved a new version at its monthly meeting Monday night.

The ordinance includes 500-foot child safety zones that prohibit sex offenders from living near places where children gather, such as parks, recreational trails, playgrounds, schools and day-care facilities.

The zones were cut in half from the old ordinance.

“The ordinance right now is 1,000 (feet) but that’s excessive because it pretty much would wipe out everything,” village attorney Gerry Antoine said before the board voted on the new ordinance.

The change was prompted by a court case involving Pleasant Prairie, which had an ordinance that didn’t allow sex offenders to live in 90% of the community, with the remaining 10% being an industrial park. The court rejected that element.

“You can’t go to the extreme of having no place in the village where somebody can go,” Antoine said.

Belgium Village Clerk Julie Lesar developed maps with designated safety zones. A 500-feet zone eliminates 45% of the village’s parcels, while a 750-foot zone would eliminate 62%.

“Obviously, 45% looks better than 62%,” Antoine said in reference to any possible legal challenges to the ordinance.

Trustee Gail Kowalkowski asked if the zone sizes could be different depending on the entity they are designed to protect. For Belgium’s day-care facilities, someone could live down the road “close enough that they could do something to a child walking home,” she said.

Antoine said that wording could be included in the ordinance, but no trustee asked for it.

In addition, a provision was eliminated that allowed sex offenders to move into the village without going through the appeal process if their immediate family has lived in the community for one year.

The new ordinance includes a provision requiring sex offenders to go through another appeal process if they move out of the village and try to move back in, an element requested by Village President Vickie Boehnlein.

The ordinance was approved on a 5-0 vote. Kowalkowski abstained and Dale Pfeifer was absent.

Discussion and approval of the new ordinance was prompted by a sex offender’s move into the village last month, which required the Village Board to hold an appeals hearing.

The new ordinance keeps a provision that treats every situation on a case-by-case basis.

“Everyone’s got a different story, a different circumstance, and you’ve got to give them a fair hearing and a chance to present their arguments as to why the law shouldn’t apply to them,” Antoine said while discussing the issue with the board last month.

The decision in Belgium’s January hearing allowed Michael Bonney, 45, who was convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a child 26 years ago, to live in the village.

The board unanimously waived its ordinance in Bonney’s case, and he was allowed to move into an apartment where his wife was living.

 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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