New Paltz considers law limiting sex offenders living in local motels

Responding to concerns brought by New Paltz residents, town officials have set a hearing on a law to limit registered sex offenders to local motels and hotels. Supervisor Neil Bettez explained the plan in general terms at a village board meeting November 4. Though the session had been intended to be a joint meeting of both New Paltz governing boards, the town board did not have quorum.

Registered sex offenders are limited in where they may live for as long as they are listed, which in more serious cases is the rest of their lives. They must also disclose their status to potential landlords. Finding homes for offenders when they are released from prison can be difficult, and one tactic employed in the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision is to rent rooms out for them. This was addressed in neighboring Lloyd three years ago, when that town board passed a law placing limits on the number who can live in one of these establishments. The Lloyd law was based on one used in Colonie.

Bettez said that the law now being considered in New Paltz was drawn from one used in “a neighboring town.” It sets limits based on the number of rooms in the establishment, as well as which of the three registration levels the offender has as a designation.

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Mayor Tim Rogers wondered about the constitutionality of such a local law, and Bettez signaled a preference for state regulation “instead of just dumping these people in a hotel or motel.” Rogers’ concern might be warranted. In the 2015 decision People v. Diack, the state court of appeals  determined that “the doctrine of preemption” required that local laws not contradict state rules on the same subject. That ruling regarded a local law that set the minimum distance a registered offender might live from a school. The law being considered here is based on the concentration of offenders rather than their distance from a particular location.

The supervisor said that more oversight from state officials is required, “… maybe someone to help them transition. To have no oversight doesn’t do anyone any favors.”

Town officials are trying to better understand the services and oversight now being provided. A hearing is set for this Thursday, November 12.