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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2008

Village of Waterville halts sex-offender proposal

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Waterville Village Council voted after listening to scores of residents condemn the proposal. Waterville Village Council voted after listening to scores of residents condemn the proposal.
ZAPOTOSKY / BLADE Enlarge

Responding to a tidal wave of complaints from citizens, Waterville Village Council voted 6-1 last night against adopting an ordinance that would restrict where registered sex offenders could live in the village.

Mayor Derek Merrin, who has been pushing for adoption of the measure, cast the sole affirmative vote. Under Waterville's system, the mayor votes with council.

Council voted after listening to scores of residents condemn the proposal. Only a few supported it. Opponents packed the council chamber to more than its capacity. They stood, sat on the floor, and lined up outside in the chilly temperatures.

The ordinance, if enacted, would have barred sex offenders from living in large parts of Waterville within 1,000 feet of day-care centers and parks. It could not be applied retroactively to current residents.

The proposed legislation has been on council's agenda since August, but only recently came to the attention of residents of neighborhoods in central Waterville not in restricted areas.

They were alerted by activists who went door to door with literature and urged them to attend the council meeting.

Those were the opponents of the measure who showed up in force last night.

They complained that the ordinance would make their streets attractive to sex offenders, causing property values to drop and endangering their family members.

The main residential area where sex offenders could live under the ordinance included all or part of Freedom Lane, Mattatuck Way, Naugatuck Way, Karis Street, Karyl Court, Cedar Lane, Hickory Lane, Liberty Drive, Cherry Lane, Maple Lane, and Michigan Avenue.

Bill Albert of Maple was one of the neighborhood activists.

"The proposal does nothing to protect innocents from transient sex offenders. This is the most contentious matter I have heard of in my 27 years in Waterville," he told council members.

Peg Ryan, also of Maple, said: "I fear for the value and marketability of my house, which is smack dab in the unrestricted area."

Fred Anderson of Cherry estimated 400 homes and 400 children living in the nonrestricted area potentially would be put at risk by the proposed ordinance.

"It doesn't make sense to leave this area open that is heavily populated with children," he said.

Mr. Anderson said the measure would hurt small businesses in the area because parents would not permit their children to walk through it.

There is one registered sex offender living in Waterville, according to the Web site of the Lucas County Sheriff's Office.

He offended many years ago and has not re-offended, according to Waterville police.

Councilman John Gouttiere said the ordinance would "focus sex offenders in one place in the community for greater concentration."

Councilman Jeff Marty, who, as a member of the village's public safety committee, last week recommended adoption of the ordinance, acknowledged last night that the committee "did not do as good a job as perhaps we could have."

Mr. Merrin defended the ordinance, saying its restrictions were meant to protect the public by keeping sex offenders out of Waterville. To hoots from the crowd, he said that communities that had adopted similar ordinances had not experienced a decline in property values.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-206-0356.



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