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By LeAnn R. Ralph
ELK MOUND — A recent court decision regarding the unconstitutionality of sex offender residency ordinances that place too great a restriction on where sex offenders can live has prompted the Elk Mound Village Board to amend its ordinance to 500 feet.
The village’s existing ordinance states that a sex offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of a place where children gather, such as schools, libraries, day cares, churches or parks, said Elk Mound Police Chief Chad Weinberger at the Elk Mound Village Board’s April 3 meeting.
A recent court decision states 1,000 feet is too much and 500 feet is more appropriate, he said.
All together, 25 percent of the area within the municipality’s boundaries must be available for sex offender housing, Police Chief Weinberger said.
The case, Hoffman, et al. vs. Village of Pleasant Prairie, was highlighted in the League of Wisconsin Municipalities newsletter on April 28, 2017.
In the Village of Pleasant Prairie case, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Wisconsin determined that the village’s ordinance to regulate where sex offenders who had assaulted children could live was unconstitutional.
The ordinance made more than 90 percent of the village unavailable to the offenders, while the remaining 10 percent was either non-residential or was not low-income housing.
In addition, the ordinance also, with no justification, distinguished between offenders who were or were not living — at the time of their most recent offense — within the village limits and also prohibited them from living within 500 feet of each other.
Initially, the ordinance set a distance of 3,000 feet from a place where children were on the premises regularly but was later modified to 1,500 feet.
Two months after Pleasant Prairie passed the ordinance, a group of sex offenders who were impacted by the ordinance filed a lawsuit.
Village Trustee Deborah Creaser-Kipp wondered if a 500-foot restriction left enough of the Village of Elk Mound available for sex offender housing.
Five hundred feet leaves many areas within the village’s boundaries available for development, and the village is not putting up a park every 500 feet to prevent sex offenders from living in Elk Mound, Police Chief Weinberger said.
The Elk Mound Village Board unanimously approved a motion reducing the distance in the sexual offender residency restrictions ordinance from 1,000 feet to 500 feet.
The Elk Mound Village Board also approved revisions to two other ordinances related to tobacco products and vaping.
“Vaping” is the process of inhaling an aerosol or a vapor from an e-cigarette
Some vaping products include tobacco derivatives and would be covered under the village’s existing ordinance, but some vaping products do not include tobacco derivatives, Police Chief Weinberger said.
Adding “vaping” makes the ordinance all inclusive, he said.
If the village board does not amend the ordinances, issues related to vaping would not be an ordinance violation and would instead go to the district attorney’s office and would be a state violation, Police Chief Weinberger said.
The Elk Mound Village Board unanimously approved a motion to amend the ordinance regarding the purchase or possession of tobacco products by minors to include the purchase of vaping products.
The Elk Mound Village Board also approved an ordinance regulating smoking in public buildings to include vaping.
Up to five gambling machines are allowed in a licensed establishment, such as a tavern, and are allowed for entertainment only, Police Chief Weinberger said.
Examples in Elk Mound would be The Pourhouse and The Junction, he noted.
Payout on machines that are intended for entertainment only is illegal, the police chief said.
The Elk Mound Village Board unanimously approved an updated ordinance on gambling in licensed establishments.
In addition to the gaming machines there are other lotteries and games of chance, Police Chief Weinberger said.
The village board also approved an updated ordinance on gambling and lottery regulations.
Terry Stamm, village trustee, asked about raffles held by various groups.
State law allows registered non-profit organizations to hold raffles as long as they have obtained a raffle number and have printed tickets with a stub that can be torn off.
An unlicensed raffle in Wisconsin is considered illegal gaming.
In other business, the Elk Mound Village Board:
• Appointed Village Trustee Greg Kipp to serve on the Board of Review.
• Observed the swearing in of Mark Hollister as a police officer in the village.
• Referred the issue of renting a large tent owned by the village to the property and finance committee. The tent was purchased from the Catholic church in Elk Mound some years ago. Questions to be answered include how much to charge for the rental fee for village residents and non-residents; the deposit fee; what is the replacement cost; should it be rented by the day or the week; will the village employees be able or willing to put it up; should use of the tent only be allowed at the village park; should the village have a formal rental contract?
• Approved proceeding with a survey of the South Garland Avenue right-of-way at a cost not to exceed $4,000. The village is planning to reconstruct the street later this year. The street has already been surveyed, but the owner of the building that houses the dance studio is concerned about the building, said Mark Levra, director of public works. South Garland has not been reconstructed in 50 years, noted Terry Stamm, village trustee and retired director of public works.