Milton reconsiders where sex offenders can live

Attorney: 3,000-foot buffer zone could be challenged
In Milton, registered sex offenders can live no closer than 3,000 feet from schools, parks and daycare facilities. The town is considering reducing the distance to 1,000 or 500 feet to avoid possible constitutional challenges that could claim the law discriminates against a class of people. BY HENRY J. EVANS JR.
January 20, 2014

Milton officials are looking at reducing limits on how close to schools, childcare facilities and parks registered sex offenders are allowed to live.

Town attorney Seth Thompson said a proposed ordinance change is intended to head off concerns about the constitutionality of the ordinance.

He said given the locations of schools, parks, and childcare facilities in Milton, the town’s ordinance requiring registered sex offenders to live at least 3,000 feet away from them might be seen as fully prohibiting a class of people from residing in Milton.

Milton Mayor and Town Council at the panel’s Jan. 6 meeting appeared on track to unanimously recommend reducing the minimum distance from 3,000 feet to 500 feet, when Milton Police Department Chief William Phillips spoke up.

“I don’t agree with you. I think we should go to 1,000 feet,” Phillips said, adding that sex offenders are dangerous people and the further away they’re required to live from specific areas the safer those areas would be.

Councilmembers Michael Coté and Kristen Patterson agreed with Phillips, and Coté amended the recommendation to include consideration of both distances, 500 and 1,000-feet.

The town’s 3,000-foot minimum requirement has been in place since 2006. The distance is measured in a straight line from the outer property line of the offender’s residence to any prohibited area within town.

Thompson said current ordinance could face constitutional challenges. He said because Milton is small, registered offenders could find it difficult to locate a place to live that would comply with the law.

Sex offender residency requirements are a zoning matter and the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission needs to consider mayor and council’s recommendation.

Also, a change in residency requirement necessitates a town ordinance change, which requires approval by the state legislature.

Thompson recommended the town begin looking for a legislator to sponsor the change during the upcoming legislative session.

The town will revisit the matter after the planning panel makes a recommendation.


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