Carver City Hall

The city of Carver is on hold regarding the possible establishment of a city predatory offender ordinance, according to conversation at a recent City Council work session.

The discussion comes on the heels of recent efforts the neighboring city of Victoria has gone through in attempting to strengthen its offender ordinance after a Level 3 offender moved into that city.

“Last summer (2021), I asked city staff if we could learn more about what our options were when it comes to sex offender ordinances,” Carver Mayor Courtney Johnson said. “I have seen other communities grapple with aspects of this issue, and wanted to know what our city attorney had to say.”

Attorney Dave Anderson provided a memorandum and commentary at the Oct. 4 work session, concluding, in the memorandum, that “there is reason to believe that if challenged, a local residency restriction would be quite difficult to defend and enforce.”

After Anderson’s comments and discussion about possible legal costs if an offender challenged an ordinance and won, council members indicated they wished to wait on such an ordinance.

“We decided unanimously to table this discussion and see what happens in the Minnesota State Legislature,” Johnson said. “It is my understanding Sen. (Julia) Coleman plans to write some bills dealing with this subject.”

In his memorandum, attorney Anderson indicated about 100 state cities have adopted ordinances restricting where certain predatory offenders may reside in their communities, typically to buffer areas with higher populations of minors, such as schools, parks and daycare facilities.

Several cities’ ordinances have been challenged in state court, claiming they are unenforceable because the state’s Sex Offender Program “so pervasively addresses and regulates” the release of offenders into society, Anderson said.

Ordinances in the cities of West St. Paul and Apple Valley were challenged in federal district court. A preliminary injunction was granted against West. St. Paul, finding the plaintiff likely would have prevailed. The court found the Apple Valley ordinance unconstitutional and the city paid $70,000 to that plaintiff in a settlement, according to Anderson.

City of Victoria residents became upset when learning Matthew Vanhecke, a Level 3 offender, was released June 22 and would be living in a neighborhood filled with young families.

Many in the city protested the move, saying it came without warning, put children at risk, and changed the atmosphere of the neighborhood.