Amarillo Subdivision Moves to Bar Sex Offenders From Community

A subdivision in northwest Amarillo has implemented deed restrictions barring convicted sex offenders from owning or living in any new homes.

G.R. Chapman Limited Partnership said the restriction will apply to future development within The Woodlands. The 550 existing homes are not affected.

"We want to try to have a community that is safe all the way around," developer Justin Chapman said.

The deeds for new homes will stipulate that a homeowner cannot sell the home if the buyer or a future inhabitant is a sex offender. Violators will be required to sell the home and move.

Kent Canada, an attorney for the developer, said the homeowners association will conduct periodic checks of the Texas Department of Public Safety online database of registered sex offenders. The group will be empowered to take legal action against violators, he said.

Federal law prohibits discrimination based on factors including race, religion, gender and age. But court challenges to similar sex offender bans have been unsuccessful, Canada said.

"Obviously, it is a property rights issue, and the developer certainly has a right to place that restriction on their property," said Randy Jeffers, an Amarillo real estate broker and president of the Texas Association of Realtors. "It's a position that the Texas Association of Realtors certainly wouldn't oppose."

Greg Lines, legal chair for the High Plains Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the sex offender ban could unfairly lump a wide range of offenders together. He cited an example of a man who was required to register as a sex offender because of a streaking incident.

The Lubbock subdivision of Milwaukee Ridge has a similar ban on sex offenders. Developer John Sellers said reaction has been positive.

"Before closing, we run a background check on the people that will be living in the house," Sellers said. "If we find out that whoever's going to be living there has a prior sex offense conviction, they're not allowed to live in the house. If everything checks out, they're welcome to move in."