LINCOLN, Maine — Town leaders have repealed portions of a 5-year-old town sex offender ordinance that Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said Tuesday was so restrictive it probably was unenforceable.
The Town Council voted 7-0 during a meeting Monday night to approve changes in the ordinance that will bring it more in line with state laws when the changes go into effect in 30 days, Goodwin said.
“We were not in compliance with state law,” Goodwin said Tuesday of the ordinance, which was enacted in late December 2006. “If we tried to enforce what we had on the books, then the people [arrested or cited] would have had a case against us. We would not have had a case.”
Under the ordinance, sex offenders were forbidden to live within 1,500 feet of schools, state-licensed day care or preschool centers or within 1,000 feet of libraries, public parks, movie theaters or public playgrounds.
The ordinance also created an additional 1,000-foot boundary around those perimeters in which offenders could not loiter or stay except as part of “legitimate activity.” Violators could have faced fines of $100 per offense, with a $1,000 limit.
The revisions councilors approved on Monday reduced the 1,500-foot boundary to 750 feet and restricted its application to schools or town-owned playgrounds where “children are the primary users.”
It eliminated the ordinance’s ban on sex offenders being allowed to “stop, sit, stand, or loiter within a Red Zone for any period of time exceeding the amount of time reasonably necessary to engage in a legitimate activity within such zone and then only for the period of time when they are actually engaged in that legitimate activity.”
Another section of the law councilors voted to eliminate had prohibited offenders from being able to “lurk, stalk, loiter, threaten, solicit or communicate with children in any area of the community,” including bus stops.
Local police had not enforced the ordinance since Lincoln Police Chief William Lawrence joined the department in April. He said he could not speak to what was done before his arrival.
Town leaders were likely following a 2006 model and a natural desire to protect residents from harm when they crafted the ordinance, but a state law change in 2009 that relaxed sex offender restrictions forced towns to follow suit, said Lawrence, who studied the town’s ordinance for several weeks and recommended the changes.
As of Tuesday, 15 offenders were listed at Lincoln’s ZIP Code, 04457, at the state’s sex offender website, sor.informe.org/sor/. The town typically averages nine to 11 offenders, Lawrence said.