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City issues permit for ICE office

Hendersonville officials have issued a permit for an immigration enforcement office on Sixth  at Justice Street after the building's owners made changes to ensure that the office won't house suspected criminals.

Wise Developments, which had bought and renovated the building for use by the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, agreed to changes required by the city, Zoning Administrator Susan Frady said. Frady had denied ICE's request to occupy the building based on her finding that it contained a detention and interrogation room that was not permitted by the office-commercial zoning. She issued a certificate of occupancy on Jan. 17.
Pardee Hospital, the Elks Lodge and physicians at a women's medical clinic had objected to the ICE functions. After contractors erected a barbed-wire-topped chain-link fence early last year, neighboring property owners took their case to city officials, saying a facility that housed suspected criminals was incompatible with the medical office campus and the Elks Lodge, which operates an outdoor pool on the same block.
"It violates common sense and patient safety to have pregnant women and their children who are visiting their physician to be subjected to such a facility and to be exposed within feet to individuals that require barb wire to be contained and/or restrained," Pardee's chief financial officer, Alan House, told Henderson County commissioners last May.
The property owner appealed the city's denial of its C.O. and the Zoning Board of Adjustment heard several hours of testimony over two meetings and had continued the case to a third meeting, in February, before the settlement.
"They've got it worked it out," said E.D. Bray Jr., a tire company owner whose son, E.D. Bray III, runs Wise Developments. "It's just an office building. I've been in it myself. It wasn't no place to lock somebody up."
Wise bought the building in July 2010 for $750,000, and a contractor filed for a zoning and building permits in seven months later to renovate the 4,724-square-foot building for the General Services Administration for use by ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.
Capt. Frank Stout, the sheriff's department spokesman, said ICE officers were expected to move from the sheriff's building on Grove Street to their new quarters on Friday, Feb. 1.
Michele Cassone, the Grand Exalted Ruler of the Hendersonville Elks Lodge, said Sunday she had heard that the agency had worked out a settlement with the city that would bar using the building to interview or detain criminal suspects.

"We were informed that the city is issuing an occupancy permit for the Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building," Rick Prudhomme, Pardee's director of marketing and communications, said in a statement. "We understand that the city took the concerns of various adjacent organizations under consideration which required alterations to be made at that site."
Hendersonville-based ICE officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.