Ahead of what promised to be a contentious community conversation next Tuesday, the city of New Richmond announced in a news release late Thursday afternoon that Immigration Centers of America (ICA) had withdrawn its application to rezone 20 acres west of the city to build a 500 bed detention center intended to detain undocumented immigrants.

In an extensive 56-page document (Final_DRC_Analysis_April_18_2019), the City's Development Review Committee (DRC) thoroughly explained their process and how they arrived at their decision to recommend denial of ICA's application.

Committee members state in their executive summary, "Through the rezoning and text amendment process, many municipalities are guilty of evaluating proposals based on politics and personalities, and making arbitrary decisions that do not conform to the Comprehensive Plan. Out of respect and fairness to all applicants and for the long-term interests of the New Richmond community, it's critical that policymakers be objective and base their decision on findings of fact.

"With this in mind, the Development Review Committee has reviewed the application from ICA according to the review criteria identified in Section 121-29.D of the City Code of Ordinances. The Development Review Committee formally recommends denial of the rezoning and text amendment application based on the following findings of fact:"

The Committee goes on to substantiate its recommendation siting 10 specific findings of fact. Among those findings, the Committee found:

• Use of a detention facility was inconsistent with the land use designation articulated in the City's 2040 Comprehensive Plan

• A detention facility would necessitate amending the Future Land Use Plan for the surrounding property as a result of the facility's impact on abutting and nearby property, particularly residential users

• Development would require the construction of adequate water, sanitary sewer, stormwater and roadway infrastructure

• Rezoning the parcel as Z8 Special Use Zoning would be inconsistent with zoning best practices and create spot zoning which is not in the interest of health, safety and general welfare of the public

• A detention center would be in conflict with the vision of the State Highway 64 Corridor as a future gateway to the community

• A detention center would not be in harmony and without conflict with the surrounding zoning districts

The city chose to allow ICA officials to preview the DRC 's recommendation which led ICA to withdraw its application.

"We're disappointed the city has decided to reject our proposal," said Duane Ragsdale, COO of Immigration Centers of America. "Due to this decision being made now, we will be unable to locate another site to comply with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency's RFP deadline in May.

"As a result, immigrants being detained in Wisconsin and Minnesota will be forced to remain incarcerated in local and county jails while awaiting their time in immigration court, rather than in a facility more suitable for those being held on civil charges," Ragsdale continued.

According to an Economic Impact study commissioned by ICA the city of New Richmond and St. Croix County will be declining significant benefits from the development, including:

• Creating 219 direct full-time jobs paying upwards of $65,000 a year;

• Creating 368 jobs during construction;

• $23.5 million in annual labor income;

• $38.6 million in total annual economic impact for local government and area businesses, and;

• $2.4 million in overall tax revenue annually.