Thursday, September 3 , 2015, 10:49 am | Partly Cloudy 72.0º




Santa Ynez Chumash Let Public Weigh In on Proposed Camp 4 Project

Discussion turns heated as tribal officials present nine options for developing the 1,390-acre parcel along Highway 246

Former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Brooks Firestone speaks during Monday night’s meeting hosted by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians on options for developing Camp 4, a 1,390-acre parcel of land adjacent to the reservation along Highway 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley. Firestone expressed strong opposition to any development of the property.

Former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Brooks Firestone speaks during Monday night’s meeting hosted by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians on options for developing Camp 4, a 1,390-acre parcel of land adjacent to the reservation along Highway 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley. Firestone expressed strong opposition to any development of the property.  (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

An effort by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to start a dialogue with the public Monday night about how to best develop housing on its land turned into a springboard for opponents who don’t want to see the development at all.

The Chumash hosted the well-attended meeting at the Hotel Corque in Solvang to present proposed options for developing Camp 4, a 1,390-acre parcel of land adjacent to the reservation along Highway 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley. The tribe bought the land in 2010 from the late Fess Parker to build homes for tribal members.

While the tribe goes through a federal legislative process to place the land in a trust, Chumash officials decided to give the public a chance to offer opinions for the best way to develop the 143-home development.

In all, the Chumash presented nine options conceived during a land-use analysis, each considering varying levels of density, topography, community attributes and preservation of natural beauty.

“The purpose of purchasing Camp 4 was for tribal housing,” tribal chairman Vincent Armenta said. “When we bought it, we said the exact same thing. This is the start of a great dialogue.”

The first option called for five-acre parcels for each home, another created buffers at all roadways by placing a development in the middle of the land, and others called for one-acre lots in varying corners to preserve some natural attributes.

Steve Davis, vice president of Summit Project Management, said each of the plans except the five-acre lot would preserve the vineyards, wetlands and other natural features.

“We want to respect and avoid developing in these areas and compromising these features,” Davis said.

Some community members seemed grateful for the PowerPoint presentation, but most wanted further guarantees from the Chumash that a casino would not be built on the land. Others called for the tribe to go through the county’s land-use process like everyone else who owns and wants to build on land.

During a question-and-answer session facilitated by Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, local residents voiced concerns about the increase in traffic and where water for the development would come from.

Williams urged citizens to put politics aside to choose the least upsetting housing plan.

“There could be no plan here that is perfect, but I think it would still help the tribe and the conversation if some of the options were taken off the table early in this process,” Williams said. “I don’t like it either, but it’s going to happen. I don’t think having a conversation about how to minimize those impacts is a bad thing.”

A speaker who said he was born and raised in Santa Barbara praised the Chumash’s efforts to be transparent in such a contentious issue.

“There are some people in life who are never truly happy unless they are protesting something,” he said.

Community members expressed an uneasiness about the land going into trust, which would mean the county loses out on potential property taxes and the power of developmental review.

Sam Cohen, government affairs and legal officer for the Chumash, reiterated that federal law prohibits the tribe from opening a casino on the land.

He said the tribe already has delivered a cooperative agreement to the county, offering to pay $1 million a year for 10 years.

“Actually, tribes feel like they don’t get special treatment at all,” Cohen said during the sometimes heated discussion. “It often feels we get treated in special ways, but not in a way that’s fair or favorable. The tribe is hosting this meeting, and I personally promise we will host future meetings.”

Armenta abruptly ended the meeting about 90 minutes in after dialogue had seemingly turned unconstructive. He said he looked forward to a more productive discussion during a future meeting.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




comments powered by Disqus

» on 01.22.13 @ 10:21 AM

Williams said. “I don’t like it either, but it’s going to happen. I don’t think having a conversation about how to minimize those impacts is a bad thing.”
===========

Perhaps I’m being obtuse, but Mr. Williams, WHY is it “going to happen”?  It is contrary to every land use regulation now in effect in Santa Barbara county.  The same regulations that all of us mortals are required to follow.

Is it because buttons have been pushed, payments have been made, and strings pulled?

Just curious…

» on 01.22.13 @ 12:02 PM

Das Williams revealed his true core belief by his “it’s going to happen” comment. So much for a transparent process, community plans, CEQA, or any other value he has previously espoused- what kind of “leader” succumbs to a pre-ordained conclusion rather than fight for the existing laws and policies that protect his constituency? Shame. on. him.

» on 01.22.13 @ 12:54 PM

It sure sounds like a done deal.  Check out:

Armenta: “The purpose of purchasing Camp 4 was for tribal housing,” tribal chairman Vincent Armenta said. “When we bought it, we said the exact same thing. This is the start of a great dialogue.”

“Dialog”, used here in the sense that Armenta will tells us what to accept; then we do it.

As for tribal housing, once the “tribe” gets housed there, it will free up space for casino expansion at the original reservation.

» on 01.22.13 @ 01:15 PM

This tribe, and the other tribes around the country, are part of the USA and should be treated as such. The concept of a “sovereign nation” is absurd in this era. They travel internationally on US passports, there are no international boundary crossings to go to their casinos and on and on. There have been tribes “found” that reorganized to build casinos, some in urban areas that were redefined into tribal lands. The entire concept, started when tribes were segregated in rural areas, has been bypassed by reality. But because there is so much money available from their primary reason to exist - gambling casinos - the concept is perpetuated and the neighbors continue to suffer the consequences.

» on 01.22.13 @ 02:24 PM

WOW, “Armenta abruptly ended the meeting about 90 minutes in after dialogue had seemingly turned unconstructive.”

So, it’s clear: It’s “dialogue” only on Armenta/Chumash terms—- and instead of facilitating the meeting for which he was hired (or did as part of his publicly-paid job), Williams announces the decision, “It’s going to happen…”! Double Wow!! It all goes with the meeting being held on Chumash property—the hotel was recently bought by them.

A public meeting of matters of public concern should be held on public land; what about the Veterans Hall? This land should NOT go into trust: whatever the Chumash want to build must follow County requirements just as would be so for any other landowner.

» on 01.22.13 @ 02:40 PM

Das Williams said that because he knows the applicable law that applies to this action. Others can wish for miracles, but Williams seems to be reality-based here.

However, what all should expect is that indeed this site will be developed for posh tribal housing, but for the purpose of vacating existing residential land adjacent to the casino complex, thereby allowing a casino and car garage expansion there to generate more profits.  It is that simple.
Also simple is that this meeting grew unproductive so the Casino Chumash then could claim that then need no more public meetings or public input.

» on 01.22.13 @ 02:50 PM

“Das Williams said that because he knows the applicable law that applies to this action. Others can wish for miracles, but Williams seems to be reality-based here.”
—————

No, the current law involves zoning that does not permit a housing tract, resort hotels or golf courses.  SB County is still a part of the United States, where, in theory, democratic rule of law prevails.

OTOH, if you are speaking of the law that states “Money Talks, Bullshit Walks”, then I would have to agree with you.

» on 01.22.13 @ 03:19 PM

According to the News-Press, the capable and reliable reporter Nora K. Wallace, Williams also said that he thought “the Chumash would be successful in the fee-to-trust process and residents would have to ‘weigh the tough choice of whether to engage the tribe to minimize impacts or fight in a court of law to slow it down.’”

Unless he’s got a crystal ball, how can he think that. Besides which, he seems to be unknowing of the role of a facilitator which is NOT to give one’s own opinions, but to facilitate those of others.

In that regard, it’s also interesting that the Chumash cut off the meeting, presumeably with their facilitator Williams’s agreement, before the County Supervisor Farr had a chance to speak. She was waiting to do so and, unable to speak, later made some interesting points to Nora Wallace, notably that it was not at all clear that the Chumash would be prohibited legally from expanding gaming to Camp 4. The present cooperative agreement expires in 2004.

Farr also said that the County has a process for the landowner to do a specific plan for the entire parcel. “They haven’t wanted to do that,” she said.

» on 01.22.13 @ 03:48 PM

Anchor Babies-watch out for those brown-skinned people!

» on 01.22.13 @ 04:04 PM

There is no reason why the Chumash, as the owners of the property, can’t follow the existing zoning process and develop it as private owners just like any other private owner.

The fact that they are a native American group doesn’t automatically mean that the only way they can proceed is to take the land out of the public domain and eliminate property taxes that everyone else must pay.

Even foreign owners such as Chinese have to follow our real property laws. Why don’t the “sovereign” Chumash???

» on 01.22.13 @ 04:19 PM

Why can’t the Chumash develop their property without putting into Trust?  I’m guessing they don’t want to follow this route because they don’t want to abide by required procedures and restrictions.

» on 01.22.13 @ 05:33 PM

The Chumash are a Federally recognized Indian Tribe. As such they have status that derives from Congress and Treaties that predate Santa Barbara County and all it’s land use regulations. Like it or not it is the law. And lest we forget, not that long ago this was all their land. It was stolen by our ancestors. White politicians, lawyers and judges all conspired to rob their ancestors of their land. That they want to buy back some of their historic lands and decide among themselves what they can do with it is natural. If I were them I wouldn’t trust any Santa Barbara County politician further than I could throw them.

» on 01.22.13 @ 06:11 PM

We always hear the explanation, like that from “rusty dad,” that the tribes “owned” all the land and we stole it from them.

Well, the fact is that, just as in all throughout history, we fought; they lost; we all need to get over it. It is time to face the reality of here and now.

They are a part of the USA and it is past time that they should act like the rest of the population. They currently are allowed to be US citizens when they want to, such as in financial matters, voting or traveling internationally, but are “sovereign” when it comes to paying property taxes, setting up otherwise illegal gambling establishments, etc.

They can observe their tribal culture just as many other cultures keep their history alive. But they can do that within the guidelines that we all follow, not their own guidelines to do whatever they want.

If they truly want to be “sovereign,” then perhaps we should establish international boundaries at the borders of the reservations and require customers going to the casino to show their passports going in and coming out. The multi-million dollar business might not be so good then would it…..

» on 01.22.13 @ 06:21 PM

Mr Art, the trust of my comment is that by law and treaty the Chumash have limited autonomy and are not beholden to local land use regulations. Petition Congress if you and others don’t like it.

» on 01.22.13 @ 07:05 PM

As it turns out, it’s a lot easier to petition Congress if you have an income in the hundreds of millions per year.

It’s the “Chumash” who are “petitioning” (i.e., lobbying) Congress to add their newly-acquired property to their reservation, simply because they know that the current laws (or their neighbors!) would not permit what they plan to do with that land.

Say goodbye to the open pastures and hello to San Fernando Valley North.

» on 01.22.13 @ 07:40 PM

Ok people (including rusty dad), point of order.

When the Chumash petitioned the State of California for casino rights (which was and is under the law) a key point in the agreement was and is they (the Chumash) WOULD NOT FEDERALIZE any further property.  This little item was put in specifically because the State negotiators recognized the huge influence and power gambling money would bring with it.

Fast forward to the beginning of this fight.  Armenta when brought up short on this condition stated….. “the Tribal Council has a right to make its own decisions” (or close to this wording.  He also made the comment he was only the messenger.  Every single time this is brought up, the Feds, the State, and the Chumash have convenient amnesia. 

To the point the Chumash GAVE UP THE RIGHT TO FEDERALIZE in exchange for gaming rights.

It is interesting to note the location of the ” dialogue”.  Just before this really became a heated public item, the hotel was Danish in theme.  The Chumash bought it and openly stated their intent was to eventually eliminate the Danish heritage and through out what we now call Solvang.  Not too enduring.

The property across from the reservation were they want to put a “museum” the same issues of “all we want….” was used.  Part of the issue was tax free status….well boys and girls they already have the exemption under State and Federal tax laws without Federalization.  It was the Bell Cow for the rest of the process we now see happening.

Has anyone bothered to sue the Russians for destruction of Rome?  Has anyone bothered to tell the Turks and Muslims it is time to get out of Constantinople? Has anyone told France to get its mitts out of Quebec Politics and sued them? Guess when we are talking clashes of cultures and technology it is only relevant to the United States. 

They want sovereignty?  Great let them have it…but it comes without Anglo/European Medicine, electricity, etc.  Oh, and it also comes without the modern currency they are generating through the casino….  Ah, that is right, they would also have to give up the casino since it is based on non-Indian culture and technology.  Opps, why are they still taking Federal BIA Medical Benefits when they obviously have more then enough money to fund a dozen such clinics…. dang another Anglo / European item…!

30 years ago I had this conversation with a currently influential tribal person.  That person stated specifically the only intent and the only outcome of their gaming would be the current reservation boundaries, a cultural reminder of what was.  It ended with my comment it will grow to a monster of what is now being confronted in the Valley.

And to Jim, in the background of the picture, I know the money is good but you know better.  You also know what I have stated about Armenta and Federalization is true.  Is it worth it?

» on 01.22.13 @ 11:32 PM

Farr said the cooperative agreement expires in 2020, not 2004, as I slip of the fingers mistakenly wrote. Apologies.

Really?: “When the Chumash petitioned the State of California for casino rights (which was and is under the law) a key point in the agreement was and is they (the Chumash) WOULD NOT FEDERALIZE any further property.  This little item was put in specifically because the State negotiators recognized the huge influence and power gambling money would bring with it.” Fascinating. Where is this written/recorded?

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

 

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.