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Santa Barbara County, Chumash Tribe Reveal Tentative Pact for Camp 4 Site

Residents speak out about the lack details as full agreement won't be released until later this week

Santa Barbara County supervisors Das Williams, left, and Joan Hartmann are joined by Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Monday night for the announcement of a tentative agreement between the county and the tribe regarding its Camp 4 property. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County supervisors Das Williams, left, and Joan Hartmann are joined by Kenneth Kahn, tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Monday night for the announcement of a tentative agreement between the county and the tribe regarding its Camp 4 property. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

After what officials dubbed “intense, sincere and thorough” talks, a Santa Barbara County ad hoc subcommittee has reached a tentative agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians regarding development of the tribe's Camp 4 property.

But some Santa Ynez Valley residents criticized the minimal details released about the pact, asking whether it prohibited gaming, included building-height limits or had protections beyond 2040 and Camp 4.

Additionally, many questioned why the agreement was developed behind closed doors and not in public meetings.

The ad hoc subcommittee, made up of Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann and First District Supervisor Das Wiliiams, along with tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn, unveiled the tentative intergovernmental agreement during a meeting Monday night at St. Mark’s-in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos. 

The pact centers on 1,400 acres of agricultural property, dubbed Camp 4 and acquired in 2010, at the heart of recent disputes regarding land use, tribal sovereign immunity and financial matters.

Tribal leaders have said housing would be built on the site along Highway 246.

Approximately 150 people attended the meeting, some yelling “boo” at one point and applauding speakers other times despite being chided. At one point, a man shouted “Indian money.”

“This is not a sporting event,” Hartmann said after one outburst of applause.

Frustrating many speakers Monday was the lack of specifics included in the pact, which won’t be released until later this week.

“While it may not please everyone, we want you to know that we did openly and wholeheartedly explore every option …,” Hartmann said, adding that the subcommittee focused on land-use protections, tribal housing needs and improved relations with the Chumash.

The agreement creates an opportunity for “greater certainty and greater harmony in the future,” Hartmann added. 

“This process has a been a long one,” Kahn said, calling it “a step in the right direction.”

One key aspect of the agreement, Assistant CEO Terri Maus-Nisich said, the agreement calls for the Chumash to provide a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, which is similar to what’s already included in the contract for the county to provide law enforcement services on the reservation.

Under the tentative agreement, the tribe agreed to develop the property using Alternative B — 143 one-acre residential lots plus 30 acres for tribal facilities — in the final environmental assessment and related documents.

The rejected option called for 143 five-acre residential lots.

No buildings will be allow within 985 feet of Highway 154, under the agreement.

Noting the development may lead to “impacts and costs” to the county, the agreement calls for the tribe to pay a flat annual fee of $178,500, due in four quarterly payments, an amount some speakers deemed too low.

However, those payments would not begin until the end of the Williamson Act status, with the ag preserve contract set to expire Dec. 1, 2023.

If the Williamson Act contract is cancelled or terminated prior to Dec. 31, 2023, through the passage of federal bill H.R. 1491, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act of 2017, the county payments would begin once the first home on the Camp 4 property is completed, according to the agreement.

The tentative agreement with the Chumash also includes multiple mitigation measures related to water. 

But skeptical residents questioned whether the tribe would uphold the pact.

“What will prevent the tribe from simply deciding in some future it will not waive sovereign immunity?” Richard Kline asked. “What then?”

The short notice about the tentative agreement also raised concerns.

“I think I’m being told, 'Here’s your medicine. Which orifice do you want it to go down?'” resident Karen Jones said. 

The pact for Camp 4 will be in effect through Dec. 31, 2040, leading some residents to asked why the agreement does not extend for much longer and include other Chumash property.

Hartmann and Williams were appointed to the ad hoc committee earlier this year, replacing Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam and retired supervisor Doreen Farr. 

The agreement will go to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors for setting a hearing on Oct. 3, with the actual hearing planned for Oct. 17.  The agreement also requires approval of the tribe’s General Council.

Before the pact takes effect, the county must dismiss a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year. Additionally, the agreements won’t take effect until the U.S secretary of Interior provides written approval or a written determination its approval is not required. 

The county also will work with Congress to amend HR 1491 to reference the new agreement. , 

Hartmann said other public meetings in the Santa Ynez Valley are tentatively planned for Oct. 5 and Oct. 9.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully 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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