Birchwood, Minn. wants to pass ordinance barring sex offender from moving in

Members of a Minnesota community are trying to keep a level 3 sex offender from moving in near a park. Their tactic: trying to quickly pass an ordinance.

Joseph Zacher is scheduled to move into a relative’s house near a park in Birchwood, a small town on White Bear Lake. Residents found out just last week that Zacher was planning on moving to the community upon release from prison. Zacher was convicted of breaking into a house and having sex with a thirteen year-old girl. And on another occasion having sex with a twelve-year-old he met at a party. He also has a record of violating probation. The crimes took place near Winona. 

In response, Birchwood neighbors are urging local leaders to pass an ordinance barring certain sex offenders form living near parks or schools. To get the ordinance passed, parents would need the city council to hold an emergency meeting — among other hurdles.      

“Having him across the street from a park, it makes this park unusable, so we're trying to pass this ordinance to make sure that if a level 3 offender is going to live in the city of Birchwood, it's going to be in a part of Birchwood that is away from our parks,” Megan Malvey, a Birchwood mother, told Fox 9.

Birchwood does not have any ordinance stopping level three sex offenders from living near parks or schools. State law only calls on officials to "take into consideration the proximity of the offender's residence…to schools."

The city council is considering passing the ordinance, which would limit where certain offenders could live -- away from schools, daycares, and parks. The city council already approved a first reading of the proposed ordinance. In addition to needing to rush the ordinance into law, there are legal questions whether the ordinance would be enforceable against Zacher, since he has already announced his intentions to move to Birchwood.

One parent said the entire situation is a good lesson for other communities. 

“It would be a good idea to check with your community and see if you have anything in place to prevent offenders like this from moving in close to your children,” Sara Nephew, a Birchwood mother, told Fox 9.

Regardless of the outcome of the proposed ordinance, Zacher will be under supervised release, barred from contact with children, and will wear GPS for some time.