Officials authorize creating ordinance after residents express concerns about existing facility
Town of Port Washington officials Monday authorized their planner and town attorney to draw up an ordinance that would limit where sex offenders could live.
But officials cautioned that, even though their actions are a response to concerns voiced by residents who live near a facility where a registered sex offender lives, any new law would not affect that situation.
That’s because the man in question already lives in the home, they said.
“We could have an ordinance tomorrow and it wouldn’t change anything up there,” Town Chairman Jim Melichar said.
Board members said Monday they are looking at ordinances used by other communities to pattern one for the township.
“The biggest concern is how changeable it would be,” Melichar said.
Town Supr. Jim Rychtik said, “We don’t want to create something that’s in conflict with state law.”
Many of the ordinances used in other communities limit the places where registered sex offenders live to areas more than 1,000 feet from parks and similar public areas, board members said. But, they said, there are still plenty of questions to be answered.
One important question, officials said, is whether natural areas such as the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve or the Sauk Creek Nature Preserve would be considered public parks, since they are owned and operated by the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.
The Ozaukee Interurban Trail is another question, they said, noting it is used by bicyclists of all ages.
“We need to figure out what we can regulate under state statutes and what we have in the town that falls within those guidelines,” Rychtik said, otherwise any ordinance drawn up may be moot.
Supr. Mike Didier also questioned the definition of a sex offender.
“Is it the guy who streaked the baseball game when he was 17 years old and there was a 14-year-old in the stands?” he asked.
The town can’t regulate sex offenders so tightly that there is no where for them to live, officials noted.
“Our business is trying to create a safe community,” Rychtik said.
The Town of Port is not the only community in Ozaukee County grappling with the issue. The Town of Cedarburg is expected to take up the issue, Didier said, noting every community in the county except for the townships and the City of Port already have an ordinance regulating where sex offenders can live.
The issue of housing sex offenders came before the board last month when more than a dozen residents living near Upper Forest Beach Road told officials they are concerned for their safety.
Monica Reyes, CEO of Abundance of Life, which has operated what she called an adult family home for people with disabilities at 4870 Upper Forest Beach Rd. for more than a year, said in an interview that one of the three residents is a registered sex offender who has completed his jail time and is under supervision.
Her agency works within guidelines established by probation and parole officials to protect the safety of the residents, staff and community, Reyes said.
“We have protocols in place for that,” she said.
The Plan Commission could take up the proposed ordinance as soon as its Wednesday, May 13, meeting.