Thursday, October 8 , 2015, 12:15 pm | Partly Cloudy 71º

Nearby Homeowners File Appeal Against Proposed Immigration Facility in Santa Maria

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Another appeal — this time from nearby homeowners — has been filed against approval of a permit to build a new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility inside Santa Maria's city limits.

Three locals residing near the proposed site at 740 W. Century St. filed an appeal on Monday of the Santa Maria Planning Commission’s Feb. 5 decision to green-light the proposed development that calls for two single-story medical buildings and an ICE facility — to be relocated from its current site within the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary.

A final decision has already been passed up to the Santa Maria City Council, when the first appeal was filed last week by representatives from the League of United Latin American Citizens.

The council is scheduled to hold a special meeting to hear the appeals on March 12 at the Santa Maria Fairpark, according to Larry Appel, Santa Maria’s director of development.

Appel said he's heard a third appeal could be filed before the deadline Wednesday.

Planning commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of issuing the permit, with commissioner Robert Dickerson dissenting and chairman Adrian Andrade abstaining.

More than 2,000 people have consistently showed up to protest during meetings related to the project and federal agency, which handles deportation cases.

The appeal filed Monday by residents John McConnell, Suzanne Buhring and Linda Williams shares concerns about armed ICE personnel, proposed holding areas and future facility expansion.

The document is signed by more than 50 others, many who reside close by Foxenwood Country Club Estates, Country Club Village Estates, Somerset Gardens Townhouses and Country Club Village Greens.   

“The location is inappropriate and incompatible with the nearby residential developments,” the appeal states. “Due to the nature and use of the facility, there will always be some risk of a security emergency or disturbance at the site involving a detainee or even an escape sometime in the future, which could impact the neighborhood and abutting properties.”

The Santa Maria City Council has twice given the go-ahead to the project by approving general-plan and zoning changes.

ICE representatives have said the facility’s real purpose would be administrative, working with local prisons and jails to pick up undocumented inmates set for release and then determining their deportation status.

The facility near the intersection of Depot Street and McCoy Lane would include a 12,700-square-foot, one-story ICE building and accompanying fencing, landscaping and a 50-stall parking lot. Two to three specially built rooms would hold a maximum of 12 to 15 people.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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