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ICE permit applications vague on office use

Neighbors say detention facility violates restrictive covenants of property. Neighbors say detention facility violates restrictive covenants of property.

Permit applications submitted by a contractor give no details indicating the law enforcement and detention functions that would take place in an office next to a women's medical clinic and across from Pardee Hospital.

The 4,724-square-foot building at 518 Sixth Avenue West has been leased by the federal government for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Department of Homeland Security. Contractors are continuing work at the site under a building permit issued last October. The actual use of the building was not widely known until adjoining property owners and Pardee officials wondered why the tenant had enclosed the back parking lot in an eight-foot chain-link fence topped by barbed wire.
"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 during a meeting on May 16.
Last week Henderson County Manager Steve Wyatt, Sheriff Charlie McDonald, City Manager Bo Ferguson, Pardee chief financial officer Alan House and Michele Cassone, the leader of the Hendersonville Elks Lodge, spoke in a telephone conference call with federal officials from three different agencies and conveyed their concerns about the ICE facility, at the southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Justice Street in Hendersonville.
City officials are withholding issuance of a certificate of occupancy until federal officials clarify the ICE plans.
"We found a room that appeared to be for interviewing and detention" of suspected violators of immigration laws, Ferguson said. "They would need to clarify how they intend to use the building. At this point they are not going to get a C.O. until we get clarification" about the use.
Wise Developments LLC, of Mount Airy, bought the building in July 2010 for $750,000, tax records show. The property is assessed for tax purposes at $581,200 in the most recent county property appraisal. E.D. Bray III of Mount Airy is listed as agent and manager for Wise, state corporate records show.
In a zoning permit application on Feb. 16, 2011, the contractor for the work, Blue Ridge Enterprises of Mount Airy, described the work as, "Renovate building to general services office building." Office use was no change from the current use, so the zoning permit sailed through without raising a flag. A building permit issued last October described the work as "General Services/ICE renovations" but still said nothing about interrogation or detention rooms that city officials now say are non-compliant with the office zoning.
Even if it can get past the city's now heightened sensitivity to what looks like a jail facility covering a half block across from the county-owned hospital, ICE faces the hurdle of restrictive covenants, which regulate what can go on the land.
The 1978 covenants declare that the property "will be used exclusively as professional offices." Further, they say that the restrictions are intended to maintain "excellence in land use, site design, and building design" and to make the development "as a whole an amenity to their professions, their colleagues, the public, the city of Hendersonville and the environment."