The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 7, 2014

City looks at strict rules for ex-con housing

Ordinance would limit where many predatory offenders could live

MANKATO — Concerned that Mankato might be targeted by the state to house predatory offenders recently released from prisons and state hospitals, the Mankato City Council is preparing an ordinance limiting the number and concentration of housing for that population.

A Record Street rental house is already being used by the Minnesota Department of Corrections for predatory offenders who have finished prison terms and are in the department's "intensive supervised release program." The city considers the home, which was announced in June as the impending residence of level-three sex offender Cody Arthur Rachuy, an unpermitted group home under current city ordinances.

But corrections officials have continued to use the home despite city objections, and the proposed new ordinance is aimed at solidifying the city's legal position while more closely controlling the location of any new facilities the department may try to bring to Mankato.

"You don't really have the ability to eliminate it," City Manager Pat Hentges told the council at a work session Monday night. "What you have is an ability to prevent a saturation of it."

Under the proposed ordinance, the homes for recently released criminals and other predatory offenders would need to be separated by more than 1,000 feet in traditional neighborhoods and be more than 1,000 feet from schools, outdoor youth facilities, existing or planned city parks with playgrounds, day care facilities and other state residential facilities.

Other cities have required distances as large as 2,000 feet between "offender transitional housing" and public places where children congregate and have required the separation from churches and school bus stops as well. But Hentges said the ordinance would likely be overturned in court if the restrictions were so tight that offenders would be virtually excluded from living in the city.

Council members, who will be asked on July 28 to set a public hearing on the ordinance, indicated support for the changes, particularly because of a belief that state officials will use regional centers as convenient locations to place offenders from smaller counties.

Councilman Jack Considine said Mankato is already carrying a heavy load in providing homes for others that need extra public services.

"Mankato has more than its share of developmentally disabled, mentally ill, chronic inebriates. That's a good thing we take care of these people," Considine said. "This is different."

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