Rhinelander city administrator Daniel Guild on Monday introduced drafts of proposed ordinances covering ATV/UTV use on city streets and setting residency requirements for convicted sex offenders.
The two ordinances, which Guild said he wrote himself, are preliminary documents that will have to be polished by an attorney. They were presented during the administrator's report portion of Monday's Common Council meeting and Guild they will serve as a starting point for the group to decide where to go on each topic.
He started with the matter of allowing ATV and UTVs on city streets.
"This is an unedited, unrefined work product that is an amalgamation of different peoples' ideas, based on the feedback we've got back from letters, emails, from folks who attended at the event (ATV/UTV public hearing)," Guild explained. "By no means is this ordinance necessarily ready for showtime, but I do think that it's at a point where we can put it back in front of folks and start getting some more comment and feedback about it."
He said that the city is now using the website Polco.us, which requires users to register using their addresses, as an additional way to get feedback from the public on the two ordinances. Guild said the drafts were posted on the site and on the city hall Facebook page just prior to the meeting. The proposals were also sent out to the alderpersons and department heads so they could start looking at it with an eye toward potential changes.
"What's really interesting about this software (Polco.us) is that it verifies the fact that you're a real person by taking your name and information and comparing it to the voter registration rolls," Guild said, noting that comments had started coming just in the few hours since it had been posted.
"If you, as council members, want to take a broader view and be more inclusive when it comes to feedback, this software enables you to do that," Guild said. "If you want to take a specific view about the needs and issues and the perspectives of Rhinelander residents and property owners; taxpayers, this software will enable you to do that. Bit it's equal opportunity, everyone can get involved and contribute something."
Guild said he offered a caveat on the two draft ordinances.
"I don't pretend to be an attorney," Guild said. "But I think that I can lay out a good setting of what some of your ideas were, the concepts and put them together in a way that at least organizes it for both public review and legal review."
The ATV/UTV ordinance contains definitions of terms pertaining to the two classes of vehicles and would spell out where they could operate within the city limits.
"I've written the ordinance in a specific way that if you look at this section here, where it says here that all streets in the city of Rhinelander are open to ATVs and UTVs, except the following, and then it's blank," he said. "That is because that is a policy question for the Common Council to decide. Do you want to open up the city citywide? Do you want to create specific routes? This gives you the flexibility and a starting point where you can identify how you want to tackle that."
Guild said he studied similar ordinances across the state and spoke to officials in those municipalities seeking to get the best possible product for Rhinelander. He said that he paid attention when some officials told him there are things they wish their ordinances contained.
"(This proposal) contains the best of all of them," Guild said.
When asked, Guild said he doesn't see why the ordinances can't be finished and start the process for approval by mid-May.
He then turned his attention to the draft sex offender ordinance. He said 21 people had already provided feedback on that proposal via the website. Like the ATV/UTV ordinance, the council would have a lot of say in how restrictive to make it, he explained.
The sex offender activity/residency ordinance got its start after mayor Chris Frederickson received a question from a media outlet asking if the city had any restrictions in place against sex offenders handing out Halloween candy. Frederickson went to Guild, who started researching possibilities with the assistance of Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier.
"I have lived in other communities where that is a prohibition," Guild said. "So we cracked open some books and started talking to some other folks and came back with some information. You can go online and you can punch in city of Rhinelander and you can get information right down to the individual address about where registered sex offenders are living in the city, if that is something that you are concerned about."
Guild said the ordinance he drafted addresses several areas of concern, again after the council fills in some blanks after discussing the various options. These would limit where registered sex offenders could live based on their proximity to schools, parks or other locations where they could possibly look for victims.
Guild showed on maps how various levels of restrictions would affect where sex offenders could live, with the most restrictive option making most of Rhinelander out of bounds.
"The first part has some language in here about activity restrictions. So, for example, if sex offenders were not allowed to pass out candy during trick or treating, they would not be able to dress up as Santa Claus and have children come up and talk to them," Guild said. "The next part of the ordinance talks about proximity restrictions, which it identifies a number of land uses throughout the city; schools, parks, places where you have a reasonable expectation that concentrations of children, people under the age of 18 are likely to congregate, and it imposes a zone around those properties in which a sexual offender could not come onto those properties."
The last part of the ordinance deals with residency restrictions. In addition to outlining proximity zones around schools, parks and other places where kids congregate that the offenders can't go, it outlines a zone where they would be forbidden to live in a residence.
"There are dozens of municipalities across the state of Wisconsin that have almost exactly the same language, but this has gone through a number of lawsuits at both the state and federal level on its constitutionality," Guild said. "I want to explain that a little bit to the group so that people understand about what is going on there."
According to Guild, after municipalities began passing various ordinances placing restrictions on sex offenders, people started finding loopholes and other ways around them. The restrictions were also tailored in such a way as to effectively bar any sex offenders within their boundaries.
"What happened was some folks got creative and they said, 'OK, if we just make the zone really big, we can zone out sex offenders from living in our community entirely,'" Guild said. "And that's where the constitutional challenges started in both state and federal court."
He said the draft ordinance would need to be fully discussed by the council and run by an attorney before the process to put it in place can begin.
"The biggest part of this is determining what is the (size of) zone, that is the distance for proximity," he said.
Along with the draft ordinance, Guild also posted the maps showing the various proposed zone size.
With no immediate questions about either draft ordinance, Guild went on with the rest of his report.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at jamie@rivernews online.com.
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