Tuesday, December 1 , 2015, 8:31 pm | Fair 50º

Group Appeals Permit Approval for New Immigration Facility in Santa Maria

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

A group has appealed approval of a permit to build a new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility inside Santa Maria's city limits, leaving the Santa Maria City Council with final say.

The League of United Latin American Citizens on Wednesday filed an appeal of the Santa Maria Planning Commission’s Feb. 5 decision to green-light a proposed development near the intersection of Depot Street and McCoy Lane that includes two single-story medical buildings and an ICE facility — to be relocated from its current site within the Lompoc Federal Penitentiary.

More than 2,000 people showed up to protest at that meeting, which was specially relocated to the Santa Maria Fairpark because of the large crowd.

The council will hold a special meeting to hear the appeal and hand down a decision on March 12 at the fairpark, according to Larry Appel, Santa Maria’s director of development.

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

The appellant faces an uphill battle, since the council already has twice given the go-ahead to the project by approving general-plan and zoning changes.

In the latest vote last month, council members voted 4-1 to propel the project forward, with Councilwoman Terri Zuniga dissenting.

Hundreds of Santa Maria residents have spoken during public comment to air concerns that the federal agency, which handles deportation cases, would sweep the town for those living illegally in the country.

The appeal takes issue with the ICE facility’s planning barbed-wire fence and potential negative impacts to public safety and on the surrounding areas.

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 would include a 12,700-square-foot, one-story ICE building at 740 W. Century St. 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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