State News

Court: Towns can bar sex offenders from parks

Posted June 13, 2008 8:30 a.m. EDT
Updated June 13, 2008 6:21 p.m. EDT

— Town officials and residents said Friday they felt better about a local ordinance banning registered sex offenders from parks after the state Supreme Court upheld a similar ban.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that the court ruled Thursday that a ban in the Buncombe County town of Woodfin is reasonable and doesn't violate any fundamental liberties of the man who challenged it.

Woodfin's Board of Alderman adopted the ordinance in April 2005, and resident David Standley sued with the assistance of the American Civil Liberties Union. Standley, 44, said the ordinance violated his right to travel because he had been twice convicted of sex offenses and is now disabled.

Wade adopted a similar ban in February after residents complained that a sex offender was hanging around a local playground.
 Violators face $500 fines.

"Just because they ban sex offenders on playgrounds and stuff doesn't mean they won't be out here, but it's a little more of an assurance you can come out here and be safe," said Ronnie Lewis, who was at a Wade park Friday with his children.

The town of Morganton also has a park ban on sex offenders, while officials in Hickory are considering such a proposal.

The state ACLU chapter claims such ordinances are too broad and punish people who are no longer a threat to children.

Wade Commissioner Ray Edwards said he knows someone on the offender registry who's now married with children.

"If people saw him, he wouldn't be allowed up there (in a town park) until his name was taken off the register," Edwards said.