Montville to hold off on repeal of child safety ordinance

Montville - The town will not take any immediate action to repeal its ordinance enforcing child safety zones - designated areas into which registered sex offenders may not enter - although the Town Council may still follow up on the controversial issue.

The council voted against a motion to hold a public hearing on the safety zones on Wednesday night, an action that is required before holding a vote on whether to repeal them.

A vote to postpone discussion of the subject indefinitely also failed, however, leaving it open for further review.

Safety zones became a contentious issue among council members last fall, following an ordinance that created senior safety zones by banning sex offenders from areas frequently populated by senior citizens. The Connecticut chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union objected to that ordinance and said it would consider suing Montville should a complainant approach the advocacy group.

The council voted to repeal the senior safety zones last month after councilor Rosetta Jones raised the issue by sponsoring a petition. Jones was concerned about the possibility of a civil rights lawsuit against Montville.

After the repeal of the senior safety zones, council Chairman Candy Buebendorf called for a vote on the repeal of the similar child safety zones to maintain a consistent position on civil liberties. The council voted in favor of repealing the child safety zones, but the vote had no effect because the town did not hold a public hearing on the issue beforehand.

Jones, who does not support the repeal of the child safety zones, said she hopes the issue will die after Wednesday's decision. She characterized the effort to repeal child safety zones as a "knee-jerk reaction" by councilors who did not support the repeal of senior safety zones.

Councilor Dana McFee also called the effort a "tit for tat" move and pleaded with the council to drop the issue at Wednesday's meeting. McFee, who supported repealing the senior safety zones, said the child safety zones weren't of concern to the ACLU and that the effort to repeal them would waste money on attorney fees.

Councilor and former Montville Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz, however, said that there was reason to believe that the ACLU would also prosecute child safety zones. Jaskiewicz voted in favor of the public hearing, saying he believes input from Montville citizens would help the Town Council make a more educated decision.

Montville's child safety zones have been on the books since 2010 and were born out of opposition to the January Center, a sex offender treatment facility that opened in the town last year.

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