By George Barnes
TEMPLETON - Voters at a special town meeting Thursday night approved a bylaw establishing sex offender residency restrictions.
The restrictions, proposed by resident Rachael Messina, were overwhelmingly approved after Police Chief Michael Bennett and Selectman Kenn Robinson both spoke in favor of the bylaw.
Chief Bennett said there are many communities across the state that have adopted residency restrictions for sex offenders. Among the communities in Worcester County with restrictions are Leominster, Bolton, Charlton, Dudley, Spencer, Webster and West Boylston.
Templeton has three Level 3 and 13 Level 2 sex offenders in town. The regulations would not affect them unless they change their residence.
The bylaw prohibits a Level 2 or 3 sex offender from establishing a permanent or temporary residence within 1,000 feet of property of public or private schools, parks, elderly housing, an over-55 community, senior citizens center or licensed day care center.
To enforce the bylaw, police may file criminal or noncriminal complaints, but in both cases the fine is $300 for each offense.
Ms. Messina said she filed for the bylaw out of concern that sex offenders posed a risk to residents of the town. It is the second time the town has approved a sex offender residency bylaw. A similar law was approved by the town in May 2013 but disallowed by the state Attorney General's office in October. The reasons given for rejecting the bylaw were it was too vague, did not sufficiently specify prohibited conduct and did not include some terms in the definitions section of the bylaw.
Ms Messina said that in the hope of winning approval this time, she drew up a new bylaw based on similar documents in other communities.