Carbondale deports INS
The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service was deported last night from Carbondale.
A 4-1 vote by an obscure board will prevent the federal agency from locating in the former Columbia Savings building just west of the intersection of Main Street and Highway 133.
The Carbondale Zoning Board of Adjustments, whose members are appointed, determined that the INS’ proposed use of the commercial building for a detention facility wasn’t an appropriate use under the existing zoning. The board overturned the town staff’s decision to issue a building permit to building owner Dale Eubank, who had agreed to lease it to the feds.
That leaves the INS unable to meet Congress’ direction to establish an office in the Glenwood Springs area. An agency representative said an appropriate building couldn’t be leased in Glenwood.
The agency’s efforts to locate an office in Carbondale have divided the community. The Stepstone Center for Social Justice and Latinos Unidos have headed opposition and collected about 1,000 signatures on a petition protesting the INS’ presence.
Those groups and several private citizens were represented by Aspen attorney Tom Smith, who was hired by a new public-interest law firm called Public Counsel of the Rockies.
Wednesday night’s meeting attracted about 200 Carbondale-area residents, more than half of whom were Latinos. Most people in the crowd were anxious to debate U.S. immigration policies and whether it was appropriate to allow a detention facility in Carbondale on moral grounds.
Instead, they sat through a four-hour land-use debate that ended at 11:15 p.m. and drove away at least half the audience.
Board of Adjustments chairwoman Genie Donovan tried to keep speakers focused on the zoning issues, but several speakers worked in protests on moral and social grounds. Some of the 23 speakers claimed they were residents of the Crystal Village area and claimed that an INS facility, which would house detainees, was inappropriate for their neighborhood.
“I don’t want my child to be afraid to walk to Main Street or Miners Park because there’s basically a jail right there,” said Laurie Stone, a resident who said she lives close to the proposed INS site.
Another neighbor of the proposed facility, Cathy Goudy, contended the building would diminish property values and pose a security risk.
“It’s not appropriate for this community. This is a peaceful community,” she said. “I was not put on notice that I could have Leavenworth in my neighborhood.”
Although Latinos comprised half the audience, only two members of the Hispanic community spoke at the meeting. One speaker, who addressed the board through an interpreter, noted that allowing this facility as a so-called public use could open the door for something like a nuclear plant.
Four speakers supported the INS presence. Steve Davis insisted some compromise could be worked out.
“Anarchy does not help,” Davis said, drawing snickers from the crowd. “What I’m hearing is a lot of `not in my backyard.'”
In the land-use battle, public counsel Smith argued that a permit shouldn’t be issued because an INS facility that houses a Quick Response Team, serves as short-term detention center and is fortified simply wasn’t a use contemplated in Carbondale’s zoning code.
Like the Latino speaker, Smith said a broad interpretation of allowed uses could conceivably allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to set up a “pit stop” in Carbondale while hauling waste on I-70.
“You couldn’t say `no’ under the logic tonight of our opposition,” he said.
But Susan Snyder, an attorney for Eubank, argued that the town government staff made the correct interpretation that the INS facility was allowed. She urged the zoning board to ignore the emotional pleas.
“This hearing shouldn’t be a popularity contest,” Snyder said.
The five-member board needed a “super majority” of four to overturn the staff decision to issue a permit. The vote was 3-1 when it came time for chairwoman Donovan to act. After a brief pause, she voted with the majority and spurred an eruption of applause in the audience.
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