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Vincent Armenta (left), tribal chair of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, with Richard Gomez, Vice Chairman.

Paul Wellman

Vincent Armenta (left), tribal chair of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, with Richard Gomez, Vice Chairman.


Unhappy Campers

Fate of Chumash Land in Question


Thursday, January 24, 2013
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The most talked about chunk of land in the Santa Ynez Valley was the focus of a heated meeting hosted Monday by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, who hope to build new housing for tribal members on the property but face opposition from a group intent on shutting them down. The meeting’s downward spiral of discussion led to Tribal Chair Vincent Armenta ending things after an hour and 20 minutes and once the comments had shifted from the proposed housing plans to how much the Chumash had donated to the campaign of Assemblymember Das Williams, who moderated the Q&A session. Williams, who hasn’t taken a position on the project, said he came to find out more about the plans. “We’re not here to have a debate; we’re here to have a dialogue,” Armenta said. And with that, the meeting was over.

The Chumash purchased Camp 4, a 1,430-acre piece of property on the northeast intersection of highways 154 and 246, from Fess Parker in 2010 and almost immediately indicated their intention to build new housing. Monday night, to a crowd of more than 250 packed into a room at the Chumash-owned Hotel Corque in downtown Solvang, tribal leaders laid out a variety of potential plans for 143 homes on the property. Currently, the reservation has roughly 80 homes, Armenta said after the meeting, and there is a definite need for more housing.

Various schemes have been floated that range from one home for every five acres down to a home every one acre. One plan clusters all the one-acre homes in the northeast corner of the property, while another had one-acre lots in three clusters throughout the property. The land ​— ​in the county’s jurisdiction ​— ​is currently zoned for one unit per 100 acres. But tribal officials are hoping to make it part of their reservation, an idea opposed by a number of unhappy citizens.

There are two ways to bring the land into the reservation ​— ​taking it from fee-to-trust through legislation or by an application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Because a Chumash application to bring a 6.9-acre plot of land adjacent to the reservation into trust has been held up for more than a decade because of litigation, the tribe is pursuing the legislative avenue, said Sam Cohen, Chumash government affairs and legal officer.

So far, the tribe has been unable to find a legislative sponsor. Former representative Elton Gallegly ​— ​who represented the district before retiring last year ​— ​said he wouldn’t sponsor legislation unless it had the support of local agencies, which it currently does not. A spokesperson for Representative Lois Capps said her office was beginning to meet with stakeholders in her new district, and the congressmember wouldn’t take a position until she’d gotten sufficient information on the local level.

The meeting Monday was held so the Chumash could receive feedback on the various potential development arrangements. But what they got was pointed criticism.

If the land is taken into trust and pulled out of the county’s land-use and property-tax jurisdiction, some worried, revenue would disappear, and the Chumash could do what they pleased with the land, regardless of the intent of the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan to keep the valley rural. “I came here with the opinion that we have a plan for the valley, and we spent years putting that together,” said Brooks Firestone, a former county supervisor and assemblymember. “We should all live under the same rules.”

And while the tribe has said it has no plans to expand gaming and only wants to build housing, citizens are worried. Former county planning commissioner Lansing Duncan called the plans a red herring. “There is nothing to constrain the tribe in terms of what they do in the future,” he said.

The Chumash hope to create a cooperative agreement with the county that would send the county $1 million over the next 10 years to help make up for whatever property-tax revenue is lost should the land go into trust. But after the meeting, a visibly frustrated 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr ​— ​who has publicly opposed taking the land off the county rolls ​— ​said she didn’t have a chance to correct the record. She noted $1 million was a “drop in the bucket” compared to the anticipated impacts of the development.

“If this were a public meeting to take input to say, ‘We’re trying to refine our options to present our plan to the county,’ that would be one thing,” Farr said after the meeting. “But if it’s to say, ‘We’re presenting this to federal legislators that there’s local community support for fee-to-trust,’ that’s a different discussion.”

Chumash officials said they will continue to hold meetings and that there would be increasing detail on the proposals as time goes by.

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

The County needs Revenue like property taxes from development of housing and commercial structures but nobody seems to want to let anybody do anything.
Santa Barbara County will eventually go bankrupt without some kind of new revenue.

GluteousMaximus (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2013 at 4:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The land is currently zoned Agriculture.

Unless Lois Capps and the Chumash can convert the land to the tribal nation it won't get more than one house per 100 acres.

Not a good idea to build on ag land. Das has taken money so he won't get in the way, but it's really a federal issue and Capps has to decide. We'll see.

Georgy (anonymous profile)
January 24, 2013 at 8:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Georgy, the whole point is that if this property goes to the Casino Chumash, the current County zoning as agricultural is totally irrelevant, moot, dead, natha.

But, gee, why would anyone distrust the motivations and promises of the Casino Chumash here? What could go wrong?

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
January 25, 2013 at 11:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Has the land already been converted? The Chumash can own any property they purchase, but transferring it into their tribal nation is another matter. Does America want to start selling off its land to other nations? Need an attorney here to figure this out. Anyone??

Georgy (anonymous profile)
January 25, 2013 at 2:31 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Once this land is gone to the Chumash, what's next? Another few thousand acres?

Hopefully all of our elected officials from local to our top federal representatives, listen to the majority of their constituents and do the right thing and refuse to sponsor the transfer.

The casino makes enough money per month they can buy what they want, pay their fair share of taxes & abide by the same guidelines as we non-tribal members.

Barron (anonymous profile)
January 25, 2013 at 2:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Are US buildings owned by China now Chinese territory?

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
January 25, 2013 at 2:37 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Assemblyman Das Williams certainly DID TAKE A POSITION as SALESMAN FOR THE TRIBE. Although we were told he was there to moderate the public question period, he took the microphone and proceeded to tell us that it was virtually a done deal that this land would be going into federal trust. This is absolutely untrue. He went on to say that we better accept the proposed cooperative agreement, otherwise we will have no way to participate. He went through every option and gave his opinion. Audience members I have talked to were shocked that our elected Assemblyman could use his position of power to become a salesman for the tribe, including intimidation tactics. Maybe his presentation is something for the California Fair Political Practices Commission to review.

HoldemAcontible (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2013 at 12:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Das Williams is also preoccupied with finding new ways to protect child molesting teachers in our public school systems.

Botany (anonymous profile)
January 27, 2013 at 1:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

And judging by his success in protecting child molesting teachers and sucking up to the Teacher's Union we should also predict success on obliterating local control over Ag Land.
On a less snide note-The part where we can control these comical land transfers to native American/corporate Reservations is by enforcing codes for utility and infrastructure access to non tribal land and the E.I.R.'s.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
January 28, 2013 at 6:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I voted no on Prop 5 the Indian Gaming Initiative in 1998. I felt bad for the way our native Americans had been treated in the past but foresaw big problems if it passed. It passed and we are now stuck with a group of people who are above the local laws in many ways and have a huge source of money to buy lawyers and politicians. Next time read the fine print, it's to late now. One can only hope that the Federal Govt does not allow the land in question to be made part of the reservation thereby exempting its use from all local land use laws. Stop blaming Das Williams and get to work opposing this land grab.

Noletaman (anonymous profile)
January 28, 2013 at 10:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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