Town of Port facility housing sex offender fuels complaints from neighbors who tell board they feel unsafe
More than a dozen residents living near Upper Forest Beach Road in the Town of Port Washington appealed to town officials Monday, saying they are concerned a community-based residential facility in their neighborhood could be a safety issue.
That’s because one of the residents of the Abundance of Life home at 4870 Upper Forest Beach Rd. is a registered sex offender, they said.
“I don’t feel safe in my home anymore,” said Nanci Johnson, 4838 Upper Forest Beach Rd. “My life has changed. I’m looking out my windows all the time.
“Who gave permission for this? No one can tell me.”
Neighbors also questioned what supervision is provided at the home and said that if a sex offender lives there, they should have been notified before he was placed there.
Groups visiting the nearby Forest Beach Migratory Preserve also ought to be warned, they said.
In addition to raising concerns about their safety, the residents said they are worried about the impact on their property values, with one man saying it will decrease them 10% to 14%.
Supr. Mike Didier said he was told the home is for people with cognitive disabilities. One of the residents is a convicted sex offender, he said, but he was told the man lived at the home before he was convicted.
One of the neighbors told officials there are two other residents at the home, a middle-aged man with lung issues and another man who needs assistance.
Town Clerk Jenny Schlenvogt said officials first learned that the house was being used as a CBRF last fall, when they were told it would be for hospice patients.
The town learned that purpose had changed a month or two ago, she said, when residents notified them.
Rules and regulations on these types of facilities are established by state and federal agencies, Town Chairman Jim Melichar said, and the town has little power over them.
These agencies aren’t required to notify the town when these facilities are established, officials added.
Didier suggested that since the house is being used as a business, neighbors should investigate whether it violates their subdivision covenant rules. If it does, he said, they could file a civil suit against the firm.
“Why doesn’t the Town of Port Washington have some control over this, and how do you get it?” one man asked, saying he had seen a television report about communities that regulate these types of uses.
Town officials said they would have their planner look into what sort of regulations and restrictions they can place on the placement of sex offenders and felons in the township.
An initial discussion was expected to be held during the Plan Commission’s 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, meeting.
But any action by the town will take time, Didier said, adding the Town of Port isn’t alone in dealing with this issue.
“This is happening across the country,” he said. “It’s a hot, emotional topic.”