Yarmouth town councilors will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a citizen-led referendum to establish residency restrictions for registered sex offenders.

The issue was debated early this year by councilors, but they ended up divided on the efficacy of such restrictions and took no vote.

Now, they won’t have a choice.

A resident, Alison Hinson, has gathered the necessary signatures to force the council to either take an up-or-down vote or send the issue out to voters.

Town Manager Nat Tupper said it has been more than a decade since a citizen has gathered enough signatures to force a referendum. Per the town charter, the number must be at least 7 percent of registered voters, or about 500.

Tupper said members of the public will be asked Tuesday to weigh in on the proposed ordinance, which would prohibit registered sex offenders whose crimes involved victims under the age of 14 from living within 750 feet of schools, playgrounds and other places specifically designated for children.

Town Council Chairman Andrew Kittredge said he expects the council to continue Tuesday’s public hearing into its regularly scheduled meeting on July 21 to give residents a couple of opportunities to weigh in. The council will then vote or put the matter out to voters, likely in November.

“There isn’t a consensus among councilors, so I’m not sure how it will go,” he said.

According to Maine’s Sex Offender Registry, there are only three convicted offenders living in Yarmouth – a low number for a town its size. One of those offenders lives on a road near the middle and high schools.

It’s not clear what prompted Hinson to launch her signature-gathering effort. She did not return calls for comment.

Many communities have adopted similar residency restrictions in recent years. The city of Biddeford, in response to high-profile allegations of sexual abuse by former police officers, passed an ordinance that limited where sex offenders could live. Under that ordinance, much of the city’s downtown is effectively off-limits. Nearby Old Orchard Beach and Saco also approved residency restrictions in 2015.

Many others cities and towns, including Portland in 2010, have discussed the issue but have not acted.

There is no state law restricting where sex offenders can live, but towns can set limits for certain offenders whose victims were children. Several years ago, some towns tried to create ordinances so they effectively made an entire town off-limits. Those were challenged as unconstitutional and, as a result, the state passed a law limiting any buffer zone to a maximum of 750 feet. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has opposed residency restrictions.

Any residency restrictions placed on sex offenders cannot be applied retroactively. That means any offender who lives within 750 feet of a school or playground would not be forced to move.

Yarmouth councilors debated a possible residency restriction ordinance back in January and February after a citizen requested they do so. But many councilors were lukewarm to the idea. Some said it amounted to a feel-good law that likely wouldn’t have much impact and worried that it was creating a solution to a problem Yarmouth does not have. Others said if it could prevent one incident from happening going forward it was worth it.

Kittredge said he arrived at the conclusion last winter that it was not the right ordinance for Yarmouth.

Some of the concerns about residency restrictions that have been raised in Maine and elsewhere are that they force offenders to the margins of communities where it’s harder to track them and that they could limit an offender’s ability to get treatment or even employment.

If the referendum in Yarmouth goes out to a citizen vote, the town does not have much of a history to draw from.

Tupper said there was a citizen-led referendum in Yarmouth about 12 years ago related to the establishment of a war memorial. Councilors approved that proposal without sending it to voters.

A few years before that, Tupper said, voters rejected changes to town zoning laws that had been pushed through referendum.