Kannapolis bans registered sex offenders from recreation facilities

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS ó The City Council voted unanimously Monday to adopt an ordinance banning registered sex offenders from all city parks and recreation facilities.
Under the new law, any sex offender found guilty of coming to such a facility will face a $500 fine and the possibility of further charges, including felony counts under additional child-protection laws, according to Kannapolis Police Chief Woody Chavis.
The vote puts Kannapolis in line with other area governments, including Mecklenburg County and Morganton, which have put such laws into place this year.
In fact, language from those communities’ bans on sex offenders was adapted to craft the new ordinance in Kannapolis.
“We started this process in March and April as they (similar bans) became more and more prevalent around the state,” Parks Director Gary Mills said.
The Parks and Recreation Commission adopted the ordinance last month.
Under the new law, the only time a registered sex offender can legally come on Kannapolis Parks and Recreation property is when the facility is being used as a polling place on election day ó which does not currently happen, Mills said ó or if a public meeting of a governing body is being held there.
“This law has passed the Supreme Court’s litmus test” for constitutionality, Mills said.
Kannapolis Mayor Bob Misenheimer praised the measure, then asked Mills how offenders would be kept out of the parks.
Mills said that no “profiling” will take place, but police officers are well aware of registered sex offenders in the area and will be patrolling the areas as usual.
Approximately 378 registered sex offenders currently live in Rowan and Cabarrus counties, according to figures Kannapolis city staff used in preparing the ordinance. It is not clear how many of those people currently live within the Kannapolis city limits.
Despite the protection of the new law, Mills stressed that families should continue to exercise common-sense safety precautions.
“We don’t want to give a false sense of security. … This is simply a more proactive approach for the protection of all park visitors,” Mills said.
In other business, the council:
– Heard a report from Assistant Planning Director Ben Warren on the land-use plan for the N.C. 3 corridor, where Kannapolis and Mooresville hope to see the road widened to support travel among local employers.
Warren told council members that Cabarrus County does not currently support widening a large portion of N.C. 3 between the cities, stressing the need to maintain the rural character of the area.
However, City Manager Mike Legg said traffic estimates show severe overcrowding of the road will occur whether or not residential development takes place.
The council voted unanimously to send the Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners a statement supporting widening of the road and agreed to contact commissioners in person to express their support for widening the road.
– Discussed possible changes to the Unified Development Ordinance which would allow established strip malls to have individual signs for tenants, but would phase out those signs over a two-year period. No action was taken.
– Met Kannapolis’ newest police officer, Justin Royce, who joined the department in July and was introduced by Chavis. Royce was ceremonially sworn in by City Clerk Bridgette Bell.