Independence enacts sexual predator ordinance

BY SUSAN VANCLEAF
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS

On Tuesday, May 9, the Independence City Council adopted an ordinance that restricts where Level II and Level III sex offenders, sometimes called predatory offenders, can live in Independence.

At the meeting, the council also took up other business.

PREDATORY OFFENDER ORDINANCE
In April, City Administrator Mark Kaltsas asked the City Council to review a potential predatory offender ordinance for Independence. West Hennepin Public Safety recommended adoption of the ordinance, because it was similar to the one on the books in Maple Plain. WHPS provides law enforcement services for both cities and an Independence ordinance would provide its citizens with protection similar to what is available to Maple Plain citizens.

On May 9, Kaltsas brought back a final version of the ordinance and got City Council approval. The ordinance says, “It is unlawful for any designated predatory offender to establish a permanent or temporary residence within 2,000 feet of any school, licensed child-care facility, public playground, or any other place where children are commonly known to regularly congregate.”

The ordinance lists some exceptions. One is for a predatory offender whose residence is also the primary residence of the person’s parents, grandparents, siblings or spouse. Another exception, is when a school, licensed child-care facility, public playground or any other place where children are known to regularly congregate is opened within 2,000 feet of a place that already is the permanent residence of a predatory offender.

Recently, a number of area cities, including Medina and Corcoran, have adopted ordinances limiting where Level II and Level III sexual offenders can legally live within their boundaries. Area cities are anticipating the release of convicted sexual offenders into the community.
Prior to their release from state prison and treatment facilities, convicted sex offenders are evaluated to determine their risk to reoffend. Level I offenders have the lowest risk and Level III offenders have the highest risk. Before they move into a community, Level II and Level III offenders must register address, employment and vehicle information with the local police department. Police would conduct a community notification for Level III offenders.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARDS
The City Council tabled a request from Jason Sievers for a variance for a reduced setback from his side property line at 1180 County Road 83. Sievers had requested the variance in order to construct an addition to his home, along with a larger attached garage. The variance would have enabled him to locate the home 17.6 feet from the property line instead of the required 30 feet.

Before a Minnesota city can grant a variance, the city must find a hardship that is not of the property owner’s own making, said City Administrator Kaltsas. The hardship must deprive the owner of the reasonable use of his property.

The Independence Planning Commission reviewed Sievers’ request, Kaltsas said. Commissioners concluded that he had sufficient room on his property for constructing the improvements if they were moved elsewhere away from the property line. For this reason, the commission recommended that the City Council deny the variance request.

City Councilor Steve Grotting encouraged Sievers to “get with” his architect to come up with a different design. After that he might not need a variance to construct his improvements or a smaller variance might be necessary.

City Councilor Brad Spencer suggested that Sievers ask the council to table his variance request. A tabling would give him time to think about design changes. Sievers agreed with that idea.
The City Council then tabled the variance request, contingent upon receiving a letter from Sievers allowing Independence to extend its 60-day review period.

WHPS REPORT
WHPS handled 1,943 incident complaints from Jan. 1 to March 31, said Public Safety Director Gary Kroells. This was an increase of 169 incidents compared with the same time period last year. WHPS responded to 712 incidents in Maple Plain and 1,090 incidents in Independence.

Lately WHPS has seen a number of vehicles leaving roads and ending up in ditches, Kroells said. He attributed the problem to slippery roads and poor driving. He encouraged people to call 911 if they see poor driving behavior, such as crossing centerlines and weaving back and forth along roadways.

NEXT MEETING
The City Council cancelled its regular May 23 meeting and decided to meet instead at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, May 30. The council is considering a change of its regular meeting dates from the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month to the first and third Tuesdays of the month.