Monday, February 19 , 2018, 4:21 pm | A Few Clouds 57º


Local News

Board Voids Opponents’ Latest Appeals to Chumash Annexation

Santa Ynez tribe plans to build a museum and cultural center on land adjacent to its reservation

A filing mistake has voided the most recent appeals of several local groups opposing the annexation of 6.9 acres of land into the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ reservation.

The Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) issued an order last week dismissing the appeals of No More Slots, Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens and Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO)/Preservation of Santa Ynez, concluding that none met the required burden of filing an appeals in a timely manner.

The groups oppose Chumash plans to build a museum, cultural center and gift shop on land adjacent to the tribe’s reservation along Highway 246 in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The IBIA approved the tribe’s request to move the parcel into federal trust status in 2005, and opposition groups have since been involved in litigation to stop the move.

After the Department of the Interior’s Board of Indian Appeals upheld the IBIA’s decision in a follow-up ruling last June, the three groups collectively attempted to file another appeal.

According to an IBIA decision dated March 18, the opposition groups did not send the appeal to the IBIA, the proper entity, before the July 17, 2012, deadline. Copies of the appeal were correctly sent to the board’s regional director and the Office of the Assistant Secretary.

“None of the appellants filed an appeal with the board within the 30-day deadline, which is jurisdictional, and therefore we dismiss the appeals,” the decision states.

The IBIA notes in its decision that the groups, including POLO, had no difficulty filing an appeal correctly in 2005. The board also explained that the dismissal of the groups’ appeals does not affect the pending appeals filed in 2005.

Leaders of the opposition groups argue that their appeals were filed timely, calling the decision “frustrating” and not surprising.

“The time that it has taken for decision-making in this case has been determined by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Interior Board of Indian Appeals,” Kathy Cleary, POLO board president, said in a statement. “It has been eight long years since we filed our appeal in 2005, and we still have no decision.

“Our attorney, Ken Williams, informs us that this latest IBIA order is wrong. All of the appeals were timely filed in accordance with federal regulation. The IBIA reasoning doesn’t make sense and is internally contradictory. Given this additional delay, POLO is considering going back to federal court to enforce the 2008 federal court order.”

With the decision, the Chumash will ask the court to expedite the process, said Sam Cohen, government and legal specialist for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

“We fully expected an appeal from them,” Cohen said. “I cannot explain their collective mistake, but we encourage it. It’s nice to win the appeal by default. With this Carcieri appeal over, the tribe is now prepared to move forward on the merits of the 2005 appeal. There is quite a road ahead.”

He estimated the land trust process is still at least three to five years away from completion.

“It’s unfortunate that all this time and money has been wasted by the tribal opponents in fighting something that will eventually benefit the entire community,” Vincent Armenta, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, said in a statement. “The decision to dismiss the tribal opponents’ appeals is good news for the tribe, but we still have to wait for the IBIA’s decision on appeals those groups filed in 2005. We have maintained this 12-year fight to prevail so that we can do the right thing and build a museum that will honor our ancestors.”

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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