SUDLERSVILLE — Sudlersville Town Commissioners voted 5-0 Wednesday, Feb. 5, to send amended Ordinance 2019-05, concerning a detention center within town limits, to the town planning commission for review.
The amended language in Section 1, Item L now reads: “Facilities provided by the town, state or federal government, OR PRIVATE ENTITY, that provide fire, police, life protection, OR CIVIL (NONCRIMINAL) DETENTION SERVICES THAT DETAIN IN COORDINATION WITH THE GOVERNMENT AGENCY ONLY INDIVIDUALS WITH CIVIL OFFENSES (DETENTION SERVICES DO NOT INCLUDE DETENTION FACILITIES OR PRISONS HOLDING CRIMINAL DEFENDANTS AWAITING TRIAL OR INDIVIDUALS SERVING A CRIMINAL SENTENCE) together with incidental storage and maintenance of necessary vehicles. Typical uses include fire stations and police stations.”
Following a decision by the planning commission, a mandatory public hearing on the amended ordinance will be held with a vote by town commissioners to follow.
“What town commissioners are attempting to do amounts to spot zoning and contract zoning,” said Jay Falstad, president of the Queen Anne’s Conservation Association. “Both of those are grounds for a legal challenge. It’s upsetting that the town government is so willing to dismiss the comments by the members of the community and continue on this road.”
Falstad said that in January, the board gave town attorney Thomas Yeager, instructions to simply remove “private entity” and “detention services” from the ordinance. Both land parcels, Falstad added, are located behind a public school.
The controversial measure drew a packed chambers where many sounded off on the amended language. A number of citizens initially decried the text in the previous proposal, which simply allowed for a detention center to be run by a private entity.
“Other than for immigration offenses, people do not get detained. This language is specifically dealing with an immigration facility and the federal government targeting a specific group of people. These detention centers, including the ICA facility in Farmville, have documented civil rights abuses,” said Laura Atwood, a resident from the western shore who attended the meeting.
The new round of ire stemmed from what the public saw as town commissioners essentially doubling down on a potential detention center to be placed in Sudlersville.
Immigration Centers of America officially notified town commissioners the week of Dec. 2 the proposed facility within town limits was no longer financially viable due to issues with federal funding.
Yet much of the recent public testimony noted the inclusion of the amended text still leaves the door open for such a facility to be placed within town limits.