Registered sex offenders convicted of felony sex crimes involving children under 14 will no longer be allowed to live within 750 feet of a public or private school, or municipal or state-owned park, athletic field or property in Sanford following passage of a new city ordinance earlier this week. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — Those convicted of Class A, B, or C felony sex crimes involving children under 14 in Sanford are no longer allowed to live within 750 feet of a public or private school, or a municipal or state-owned park, athletic field or property.

The Sanford City Council approved the new ordinance that restricts residency for registered sex offenders convicted of those crimes in a unanimous vote of the six councilors present on Tuesday. City Councilor Joseph Hanslip was absent.

Registered sex offenders living in a property within those boundaries prior to adoption of the ordinance will not be required to move, Community Development Director Ian Houseal told the council.

The ordinance approved on Tuesday removes earlier language that had proposed holding landlords responsible for ensuring they didn’t rent to sex offenders in the prohibited categories.

Deputy Mayor Luke Lanigan on Friday said those references were removed after a council subcommittee working on the issue heard from landlords and realtors.

“Realtors and landlords felt ( the prior language) it could be a violation of privacy and result in liability issues,” Lanigan said.
Now, he noted the responsibility rests with the offender.

“How does an individual who isn’t supposed to be residing there know that they are (not allowed) now,” asked Councilor Robert Stackpole.

Houseal said property owners who are within that distance will be notified.

Councilor Maura Herlihy said she’d be inclined to put the ordinance language in rental applications that prospective tenants fill out, and would encourage other landlords to do the same.

City Manager Steve Buck said the ordinance conforms to what is allowed under state law.

Violation of the ordinance is a civil penalty enforced by Sanford Police or a Code Enforcement Officer, according to the  ordinance. The city could assess the violator penalties ranging from $100 to $2,500 per day, plus court costs.

The Maine Legislature in 2009 approved a state law setting out specifics regarding the ability of municipalities to create ordinances to restrict residency of registered sex offenders.

Some communities, like Waterboro and Lyman, passed ordinances several years earlier and have since amended them to conform to state statutes.

Waterboro’s ordinance was adopted by town wide referendum in 2006 after an uproar ensued when a registered sex offender, who has since died, moved into the neighborhood around the then-location of Massabesic Junior High School. Joseph Tellier was released from prison in 2004 after serving time for the 1989 abduction, molestation and beating of a 10-year-old girl.

Biddeford, Orchard Beach and Saco approved sex offender residency ordinances within months of each other in 2015.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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