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Local News

Farr Warns About Chumash Efforts to Expand Reservation

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians is attempting to add a swath of largely undeveloped agricultural land to its reservation in the Santa Ynez Valley, according to Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr.

Farr, who represents the Third District on the county Board of Supervisors, sent an email to her constituents in the Santa Ynez Valley on Thursday, alerting them to the tribe's application to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make the 1,390-acre parcel — known as Camp 4 — part of the tribe's nearby reservation.

The tribe bought land in 2010 from the late Fess Parker, and has said it wants to build homes for tribal members.

On Friday, tribal officials confirmed the application had been filed.

If the property is allowed to become part of the reservation — through a process known as fee-to-trust — it would be removed from the county's tax rolls, and would not be subject to the county's planning processes.

In alerting valley residents to the tribe's application, Farr reiterated her opposition to any expansion of the tribe's 138-acre reservation.

"Supervisor Farr’s position on this issue has not changed; she remains opposed to any further fee-to-trust applications," according to the email sent out by Farr's office.

Camp 4 is near the Chumash reservation, and sits near Highway 246 and Highway 154.

Farr's email said her office has confirmed the tribe's application, and has been told by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the application is being reviewed for completeness.

"Once the BIA deems the application complete, it will issue a notice to the county and other local jurisdictions, which will start a 30-day comment period for the county to comment," Farr's email said. "Supervisor Farr has directed the (county) CEO’s office to check with the BIA on a weekly basis on the status of the application."

Farr's email also noted that the county has received an application for non-renewal of the Williamson Act contract for the land, which would take the property out of agricultural-preserve status.

Exiting the ag-preserve status, which provides tax breaks but limits development — a process that takes several years — could allow urban development on the property.

Farr's email said "she believes that any proposed development on Camp 4 should be reviewed and acted upon through the local land-use process."

The Williamson Act request is scheduled to be reviewed by the county's Agricultural Preserve Advisory Committee at its September meeting, Farr's office said.

The tribe issued a statement Friday, confirming the fee-to-trust application, and reiterating its intention to use the Camp 4 property for tribal housing.

In the statement, tribal chairman Vincent Armenta also noted that the Chumash had attempted to negotiate an agreement with the county over the issue.

“More than two years ago we submitted a Draft Cooperative Agreement to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors hoping to negotiate a payment in lieu of property taxes for our Camp 4 land,” Armenta said. “After repeated attempts to enter into a discussion, the Third District Supervisor refused to meet with us and left us with no other alternative than to file a federal trust application with the BIA.”

Armenta said that the agreement would have paid the county more than $1 million annually.

“Essentially, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors walked away from more than a million dollars a year in revenue for the county, and will probably spend more than a million dollars fighting our trust application with the BIA,” Armenta said.

The Chumash held a public meeting in January to take comment about their plans to annex the parcel to the reservation and build homes for tribal members.

“The purpose of purchasing Camp 4 was for tribal housing,” Armenta said at the time. “When we bought it, we said the exact same thing.”

One option proposed by the tribe called for 5-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 1-acre lots in varying corners to preserve some natural attributes.

Steve Davis, vice president of Summit Project Management, said at the time that each of the plans except the 5-acre lot would preserve the vineyards, wetlands and other natural features on the property.

Many of the comments at the meeting were from opponents who said they don’t want to see any development at all on the property.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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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