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Indian Appeals Board Dismisses Appeal to Chumash Annexation

The Interior Board of Indian Appeals sided with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians in its fee-to-trust application for a 6.9-acre parcel and dismissed the latest appeal in a decision issued Tuesday.

Tribal leaders want to build a museum on the property, which is adjacent to the reservation along Highway 246 and Numancia Street in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the tribe’s request to move the 6.9-acre parcel into federal trust status in 2005 and local organizations have been appealing the decision ever since.

The IBIA dismissed the appeals of No More Slots, Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens and Preservation of Los Olivos/Preservation of Santa Ynez in March for being untimely and issued another decision this week in favor of the tribe, dismissing the latest appeal and supporting the original 2005 approval of the trust status. 

“In 2005, these appeals came in and it’s been really, from that point on, about nine years of this legal battle,” said Hildy Medina, public relations manager for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

With this decision, the tribe “prevailed” and the land will be put into federal trust in 30 days, she said.

There is still an appeals process of the IBIA decision, which would be handled in Federal District Court.

Meanwhile, though, the tribe can move forward with its plans for the site, including a museum, cultural center and commercial space, Medina said. 

The county hasn't lodged a protest against this project or reached any mitigation agreement, said Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley. 

The tribe has plans to expand the existing casino, adding hotel rooms and gaming floor space, so that combined with the project across the street "is going to be an enormous increase in impact for traffic and emergency services in the area," Farr said. 

Santa Barbara County isn’t a party in this litigation, but it is opposed to the tribe's Camp 4 annexation with a 1,400-acre parcel. However, the county counsel and county executive office is analyzing the IBIA order and remand over the weekend, county counsel Mike Ghizzoni said.

“I see the punch line that the board dismisses the appeal, and we’ll see what it means for the future of this action,” he said. “We’ve certainly been watching this piece, but we’re not a party for this particular appeal, so we’re watching it and trying to see what this means for the 6.9-acre parcel and other issues in the valley.”

The 6.9-acre parcel is near the Chumash Casino Resort, which is owned and operated by the Chumash Indians on the Santa Ynez Reservation.

The proposed site plan has a museum and cultural center, parking lot, commercial retail facility and open park space. 

If the land is annexed into the reservation, it becomes part of the self-governing tribal sovereign nation and isn’t held to state or county planning laws, which is a concern of groups filing the appeals.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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