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Sex Offenders, Blue Lights, Billboards and Flood Maps

All that and more on the City Council's agenda Thursday night.

As the City Council reconvenes Thursday night from its summer recess, a number of weighty issues await councilors.

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Mayor Ted Bettencourt is asking the council to schedule a committee meeting in order to discuss , but before he actually submits the proposed law into the public record, he wants a set date.

"Once a date has been scheduled for a hearing, I will submit a draft ordinance for review and ask for adoption of same," Bettencourt said in a memo to the council.

, and did not reveal many details of his intentions other than to say the law would both restrict where Level 3 sex offenders can live in Peabody and also their proximity to certain public or recreational facilities where children congregate, such as schools or parks.

There is currently no state law in Massachusetts or in most other states restricting the activities of convicted sex offenders -- neither do most cities and towns have such local laws. Such restrictions are typically dealt with in court by a judge as part of sentencing.

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The City Council's Municipal Safety Committee is also scheduled to meet Thursday night (6:45 p.m.) to hear back from public safety officials on proposed language, fines and other details for a new emergency parking ban ordinance.

in favor of integrating a new system that uses the blue lights at key intersections throughout the city and other means of communication to enact a temporary parking ban only when it actually snows or floods.

, councilors ended up asking the police, fire and public services departments to come back with a proposal they could review and vote on.

City Clerk Tim Spanos said that as of Wednesday afternoon, he had still not received any documentation, but expected it would come in as a late communication.

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The council has six special permit hearings to wade through Thursday night, all for billboards along Route 1 and one outside the .

The council turned away Total Outdoor Corp. this spring at what some members -- nearly 100 feet up off Lowell Street in order to be in view of motorists on Route 1 and Interstate 95.

Mansfield Outdoor Advertising says it wants to install a 14-foot by 48-foot two-sided sign at 80 Newbury St. and then another one at 229 Newbury St. The company says there is nothing "unusual or distinct" about either billboard. The submitted designs, however, don't indicate how high up the signs would be.

Total Outdoor Corp. meanwhile now wants to construct two sames sized signs 60 feet off the ground at 258 Newbury St. and near Essex Center Drive on the Northshore Mall property.

And lastly, Clear Channel Outdoor wants to same size digital sign at 71 Newbury St. and 57 feet off the ground and then is seeking to convert an existing billboard at 203 Newbury St. into a digital sign.

The has no objections to the signs, but asks that a condition of the permits for the digital billboards allow the department's dispatch center instant and remote access to display messages in the event of an emergency.

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The council will hold a public hearing on deleting its flood plains related zoning language in favor of new language drawn up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA undertook the project in recent years to revise the way flood maps were updated, introduce definitions and terminology, and also to make them more accessible to the public by putting map tools online. Compliance with the new zoning regulations ensures continued participation in the National Flood Insurance Program, which many residents take advantage of.

While the intent of the effort is to produce a more accurate picture of typical flooding in the area and whether a homeowner's property is actually in a flood plain or not, the Peabody flood insurance rate maps are not actually changing, according to city officials. They say there's just some new definitions and zoning language.

But not everyone agrees that's the case. South Peabody resident Russell Donovan, who has long been an outspoken critic of the city's flood mitigation plans, particularly for not addressing flooding outside of the downtown until more recently, says the changes are not a wash. He believes the new bylaw will actually free up areas for development in the city that have been off-limits in the past, despites assurances to the contrary from city officials.

The Board of Health has already adopted the relevant changes and the Planning Board had made a recommendation to the City Council to adopt the new language as well to remain in compliance with the federal program. The zoning was passed in committee and now awaits a similar vote from the full council.

You can check out the new maps at FEMA's website.

bjean August 23, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Let's not ban just level 3, let's ban them all! There is no place in society for these criminals. They can not be rehabilitated.
Jimmy W August 23, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Well said Bonnie, I could not agree more. I hope the council listens.
Crystal Jones August 23, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Go ahead and try to ban... you are all idiots if you actually think this is going to keep our kids safe.. limiting where they can live will only make the problem worse. What happened to the parents responsibility? What does a drug addict do when they are down in out with no support and cant find a place to live or work? They go back to using, well its exactly the same for ex sexual offenders,, what do you think they will do? Its not the offenders who have been caught that you need to worry about.. they have had treatment .. Its the offenders in your homes who haven't been caught yet.. they are the most dangerous. And since that is actually the case why not ban everybody from living anywhere. These stupid laws don't work. And shame on him for using fear mongering to get the vote and abusing the people who lack intelligence like jimmy w and Bonnie-jean. Poor Jimmy and Bonnie I am sorry you both are too stupid to realize what is actually going on. Its people like you that made Hitler Popular.
T. Nixon August 23, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Peabody Patch Readers: Please DO NOT RESPOND to these so-called "sex offender rights" advocates that show up on every story about this topic. They are baiting us (ie "like you that made Hitler popular") so they can spew their twisted agenda. They will defend these sickos until they are blue in the face. Luckily, most of the people I know are smart enough to agree that SEX OFFENDERS LOST THEIR RIGHTS WHEN THEY COMMITTED THEIR DISGUSTING CRIMES. And, heeding my own advice, I will resist the urge to comment on anything "crystal" posts as a response to my post. People like "crystal" disgust me, and don't deserve my time.
bjean August 23, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Actually, I think my degrees in criminal justice and psychology prove the pedophile-loving "Crystal" wrong. Anyone who has any sense of knowledge about pedophiles, knows that it is a sexual preference. Such as I am attracted to men (my husband) pedophiles are attracted to the victims they perpetrate. Will it "stop" them, no. However, I would like to know that when I take my 2 year old to the park, there won't be some creep getting his rocks off checking out my kid. Also, my husband is a United States Marine with a license to carry. I'm not afraid of anyone :)

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