Moose Lake considers ordinance to restrict residency of sex offendersThe Moose Lake City Council will likely vote on an ordinance at its Sept. 8 meeting that will place limits on where Level 3 sex offenders are allowed to establish residency within the city limits after being released into the area.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The Moose Lake City Council will likely vote on an ordinance at its Sept. 8 meeting that will place limits on where Level 3 sex offenders are allowed to establish residency within the city limits after being released into the area.
According to Mayor Ted Shaw, the council called a special meeting on Aug. 3 to consider such an ordinance after word was received that convicted sex offender Dustin Kenneth Lee Nelson, 27, was planning to set up camp just outside of Barnum. Only a few days earlier, officials had reported that Nelson was planning to live in the Moose Lake area but he apparently changed his mind.
“The primary intent of passing such an ordinance,” said Shaw, “is to protect our children, especially the younger ones. Our main concern is the areas around youth centers, schools and anywhere kids gather in large numbers.”
The ordinance under consideration would restrict areas around places where young people congregate in concentrated numbers from either temporary or permanent residency by predatory offenders who have been released from incarceration. The ordinance would prohibit residency by such offenders within 1,000 feet of any school, licensed day care center, park or playground. Offenders would also be restricted from residing within 500 feet of any place of worship that provides educational programs to children.
According to City Administrator Mark Dahlsing, the ordinance under consideration by the Moose Lake Council is loosely based on a similar one developed by the community of Wyoming, Minn. He indicated that while several large cities in the state have adopted such ordinances, Wyoming is closer in size to Moose Lake.
Though the state has no such laws restricting where a released Level 3 offender can live, cities are allowed to enact ordinances of their own.
Moose Lake’s ordinance, if passed, would actually be an amendment to its current Nuisance Ordinance 131 and add language referring specifically to released Level 3 sex offenders and where they can and cannot establish residency in Moose Lake in the future.
Though the council had hoped to pass the ordinance at its Aug. 11 meeting, Shaw stated there were a few points that council members felt needed greater clarification and alteration, so they voted to table it until the Sept. 8 meeting.
Dahlsing said the sticking points have mostly to do with minor verbiage and rewording. For example, a subdivision of the proposed ordinance prohibits unwanted contact by Level 3 offenders with anyone on public property within the city limits, such as city parks or recreational trails.
“We need to study further just exactly what we mean by ‘unwanted contact,’” said Dahlsing.
Shaw added that the city also wants to be certain that restricting actions on public property is within the limitations of the law.
“They [released Level 3 predatory offenders who have served out their time] still have rights in the public domain, and we have to make sure we don’t cross those lines,” he said.
Shaw said while no one from the public addressed the council about the ordinance at the Aug. 11 meeting, most of the council members have gotten considerable personal feedback from constituents.