Sunday, November 29 , 2015, 2:00 pm | Fair 64º

Chumash Holding Public Meeting About Casino Expansion

By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @ginapotthoff |

Locals will get the chance to check out the specifics of a planned expansion at the Chumash Casino Resort — including construction of a new 12-story hotel tower — at a public meeting Thursday.

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, which owns and operates the casino and resort on its federally-recognized reservation, will host the meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Samala Showroom at the Chumash Casino Resort.

The meeting follows a letter the tribe sent this spring to Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, chairman of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, announcing plans to add 215 hotel rooms, 584 parking spaces, more gaming floor space and other improvements to alleviate overcrowding and circulation issues.

Construction is slated to begin as soon as later this year, and tribal officials are hosting the meeting to present plans and gather input — and likely some complaints — from neighbors of the 190,000-square-foot complex at 3400 E. Highway 246 in Santa Ynez.

Tribal chairman Vincent Armenta said those issues will be answered in a final environmental evaluation for the project — consistent with tribal government rules — and do not need to be brought before the county supervisors for approval.

The tribe has offered to meet with the supervisors to discuss mitigating environmental impacts, he said, and the 30-day public review period for the EE closes Aug. 14.

“It’s important for the public to know that this meeting is not a Q&A format,” Armenta said in a statement. “We are simply collecting comments from the public and will respond to those comments in our final EE. The tribe will make a good faith effort to mitigate all off-reservation impacts and will recirculate a final EE document.”

An overall budget of approximately $165 million has been earmarked for the project that would add to the existing 106 guest rooms and 17 luxury suites at the resort hotel.

The tribe opened the original casino in 1994 in a small building, adding two temporary buildings in subsequent years before consolidated into one complex that opened in 2004.

In the letter to supervisors, Armenta said expansion was necessary because the hotel was dramatically downsized during the tribal environmental review process — a disservice to the tribe’s long-term revenue.

The environmental evaluation, available online by clicking here, shows the tribe's plans to add a new 12-story tower and hotel rooftop pool deck perpendicular to the existing four-story hotel, spanning the East Fork of Zanja de Cota Creek to the existing southern parking structure. 

The tribe plans to construct a new six-tier parking structure adjacent to current parking and to renovate the casino to grow by 60,000 square feet.

Adding more machines to the 18-or-older, 24-hour gaming floor — already boasting 2,000 slot machines, dozens of table games, bingo, poker and more — is not part of plans, since the casino already has the maximum number allowed by the state.

The proposed project would be built over two years beginning this fall, and would create 250 new jobs at the complex that would be able to serve 10,000 patrons per day instead of the current daily average of 8,800.

“Guests of the Chumash Casino Resort will benefit with additional hotel rooms, more parking spaces and more space on the gaming floor,” Armenta said. “The community will benefit by the new jobs created by this project — both during and after construction.”

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.

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