Repeal of child safety zone ordinance in Montville is invalid

Montville — The Town Council's repeal of an ordinance that creates zones that sex offenders must avoid to prevent contact with children was not done properly, and the ordinance remains on the books.

On Monday, the Town Council voted to repeal ordinances that created so-called child and senior safety zones. Marked by signs, these zones were designed to keep registered sex offenders from town-owned and town-leased property such as the senior center, senior buses, parks, playgrounds, beaches and sports fields.

Since the ordinance was introduced last fall, councilors Rosetta Jones and Dana McFee had voiced concern that the town was setting itself up for a lawsuit.

Jones led a successful petition drive in December and collected 537 signatures to bring the issue of the senior safety zone before the council either at a special town meeting or for inclusion on the Town Council agenda.

Montville Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel said the petition addressed only the senior safety zone, and therefore the council could legally act only on that ordinance.

He said if the council wants to repeal the child safety ordinance, the council would have to add it to its agenda for a public hearing followed by a vote. He said February's agenda has yet to be completed.

The state American Civil Liberties Union has argued that the restrictions violated basic rights, and said if they found a client wronged by the ordinance, they would sue the town. The ACLU also took exception to the town's argument that seniors are targets of sex crimes.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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