SKOWHEGAN — Residents will get a chance to weigh in on a proposed ordinance that would restrict where a registered sex offender can live.

The ordinance titled “Town of Skowhegan Sex Offender Residency Restriction Ordinance” was approved by selectmen this week for discussion at a public hearing at 5:30 p.m. April 10 in the Municipal Building on Water Street, and later as a warrant item at the annual Town Meeting in June.

Under the proposed ordinance, rules of residence would apply to anyone convicted of a felony class A, B or C sex offense against someone who had not yet turned 14 years old, whether the offense occurred in Maine or elsewhere.

A convicted sex offender, under the ordinance, could not live, rent or own a home within 750 feet of a public or private elementary, middle or secondary school or any of the “safe zones” in Skowhegan. Safe zones are public parks, athletic fields or recreational facilities.

Safe zones in Skowhegan are Bucky Quinn Field on South Factory Street, Pat Quinn Ball Field on East Maple Street, Memorial Field on East Maple Street, Carl Wright Ball Fields at the Community Center and Lake George Regional Park on U.S. Route 2 at the Canaan town line.

Selectman Paul York, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said by phone Wednesday that there have been no problems with registered sex offenders in Skowhegan; but because no restrictive ordinance is in place, it was a good time to get one in the books.

“We thought we needed to have one in place,” he said.

The ordinance was drafted to create a safe environment for residents to live and raise their families in Skowhegan, according to the document’s language. The town considers “the promotion of the safety and welfare of children to be of paramount importance,” it says.

The draft ordinance goes on to say that sex offenders who prey on children might have a high rate of recidivism, noting that those convicted of sex offenses are required to register with the state under the Maine Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, but that additional safeguards are necessary to protect places where children meet or play.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to provide such further protective measures while balancing the interests and residential needs of sex offenders,” the document reads.

The town Planning Department, with the assistance of the Police Department, would prepare an official map showing restricted areas and would file the map with the Town Clerk’s office. Licensed nursing homes or other medical facilities are excluded from the ordinance.

Another exception to the rule, if enacted by voters, is a provision that a registered sex offender living within one of the setback areas of restricted property will not be in violation of the ordinance if the residence was established and consistently maintained as a residence before the ordinance was adopted.

The town can seek legal action against anyone who violates the order and can seek a penalty of $500 per day for each day of the violation.

The Skowhegan draft ordinance comes this week amid discussion in Augusta of a proposed bill that would make it a class D crime for anyone required to register as a sex offender to photograph a minor intentionally without the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian.

Class D crimes are punishable by up to one year in prison and/or fines of up to $2,000.

Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, the bill’s sponsor, said he introduced the legislation after hearing from outraged parents who reported that a registered sex offender had been taking photographs of their children shopping in Augusta and posting the photographs online.

The registered sex offender, whose name police have withheld because he has not been charged with a crime, was visiting local stores to take candid photographs of local shoppers, most of them young girls, without their parents’ knowledge or consent and posting those photographs on social media sites including Flickr, a photo-sharing site.

The man in question was convicted of three counts of gross sexual assault involving a victim younger than 14 in 2006 in Portland Superior Court, according to the state sex offender registry.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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