Southborough votes to increase sex off ender residency restrictions

Southborough – An amendment to the town's bylaws to prevent sex offenders from living in specific areas of town and a warrant article vote on using money from the stabilization fund to reduce taxes were the highlights of Southborough's 2008 Town Meeting, which was held April 14, 15 and 17.

The warrant article regarding restricting where in town Level 2 and 3 sex off enders could live was clearly the Town Meeting topic that drew the most interest, as residents commented on both sides of the issue for more than 45 minutes before voting, 47-32, to amend the town's general bylaws.

Under the new restrictions, sex offenders are prevented from residing – even temporarily – within 1,000 feet of schools, day-care centers, bus stops, parks, recreational facilities and elderly housing communities. In addition, they cannot loiter near those areas.

Southborough's adoption of the sex off ender restrictions continues a trend of local communities imposing tighter controls on sex off enders as Shrewsbury and Marlborough also have similar restrictions.

Police Chief William Webber presented the warrant article on the subject, which he supported.

"Passing these restrictions provides the Police Department with another tool that will allow us to off er another layer of protection to our residents," Webber said.

Residents who opposed instituting the restrictions did so for a variety of reasons, including that doing so would give the town a false sense of security and that the restrictions would prompt sex off enders to register false addresses or move to another location in town without notifying the police.

Advisory Board member John Butler cited studies from other states that determined adding harsher restrictions did not deter sex off enders from re-off ending.

"I could not find any evidence that residence restrictions prevent any crime," Butler said.

Southborough resident Carol Willoughby, who operates a day-care center in town, was one of the people who urged Webber to ask that the increased restrictions be brought to Town Meeting floor for a vote to amend the bylaws. Willoughby approached the Police Chief about the subject after a sex off ender moved in two doors from her day-care center.

"This bylaw takes away the temptation to re-offend by limiting interaction with children," Willoughby said.

The warrant article that requested a vote on using money from the stabilization fund to reduce taxes failed to pass for the second year in a row, and – for the second year in a row – failed to do so by a two-vote margin.

Over the years, the town's Advisory Committee has adopted the position that the town should use stabilization monies to reduce the tax rate, but the Board of Selectmen has been staunch in its belief that less – not more – of the $1.8 million should be touched.

A lengthy discussion ensued at Town Meeting, with support for both sides, prompted by the fact the Advisory Committee recommended using $725,000 to lower the tax rate and leaving more than $900,000 in the fund.

In the end the vote was in the affirmative, but only by a 65 percent margin, 101-66, not the two-third majority that's required.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=2313

Posted by on Apr 25 2008. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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