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Legal Actions Continue After County, Chumash Ink Pact for Camp 4 Property

New federal lawsuit filed challenging Bureau of Indians Affairs decision to take 1,400 acres in Santa Ynez Valley into trust

A Santa Ynez Valley group and three neighbors of land known as Camp 4 have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the decision to take 1,400 acres into trust on behalf of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash of Indians. Click to view larger
A Santa Ynez Valley group and three neighbors of land known as Camp 4 have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the decision to take 1,400 acres into trust on behalf of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash of Indians. (JC Corliss / Noozhawk file photo)

A Santa Ynez Valley group and three neighbors of land known as Camp 4 have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the decision to take 1,400 acres into trust on behalf of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash of Indians.

Meanwhile, an attorney for another neighbor, the Crawford family's San Lucas Ranch, renewed objections to an agreement between Santa Barbara County and the tribe.

On Tuesday, Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens filed the lawsuit challenging the federal action to take the Camp 4 property into trust.

The legal actions come as the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors gets set to withdraw its own federal lawsuit over Camp 4 under an agreement with the tribe.

The pact centers on the rural acreage proposed for tribal housing and a tribal hall on land near Highway 154 and Highway 246. Gaming would not be allowed on the land.

The federal lawsuit asserts that the Department of Interior’s decision to take this action was based on an insufficient analysis of environmental and land-use impacts as required by the federal law.

“Residents of the Santa Ynez Valley have exhausted the administrative remedies available to us, and we are now turning to the federal courts to seek relief from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ illegal action on Camp 4.  It impacts not only valley residents, but places a tax burden on all county taxpayers,”said Greg Simon of Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens.  

“Consequently, we felt it imperative that the significant legal flaws with the federal government's Camp 4 decision be fully aired and adjudicated in federal court. ”

Along with the Concerned Citizens group, the lawsuit identified the other plaintiffs as Gregory Simon, Geraldine Shephard and Bill Kraush, three homeowners who live adjacent to the trust property.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Department of Interior, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other officials.

The lawsuit alleges that the analysis of the environmental, land-use, economic and other impacts as required by federal law was inadequate and insufficient. 

Instead of requiring a more comprehensive environmental empact statement, the Bureau of Indian Affairs relied instead on a more limited environmental analysis.

The federal lawsuit filing occurred on the same day as the Board of Supervisors approved an inter-governmental agreement regarding Camp 4 development, spelling out the plan to build 143 houses on one-acre lots.

The pact required the county to withdraw its litigation, filed earlier this year, also challenging the “fee-to-trust” decision.

“We are happy to support Concerned Citizens in their efforts seeking justice for the Santa Ynez Valley and preserving its rural character and natural environment,”said Bill Krauch, chairman of the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition.  “They are filling the void that has been left by the county, and we wholeheartedly support and endorse this endeavor.”

If the plaintiffs prevail in court, they say the decision to take Camp 4 into trust would be reversed, and the federal government would have to prepare an environmental impact statement for public review and comment. 

The lawsuit was filed by San Francisco-based attorneys from the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius.

In another legal matter, Santa Barbara attorney Barry Cappello said Thursday that he filed an amended complaint regarding efforts to ask a Superior Court judge to stop the county from entering into the agreement with the Chumash. 

Last week, a Santa Barbara judge declined to rule, saying it was premature to object before the Board of Supervisors had approved the pact.

Cappello also said he intends to seek relief in the Court of Appeal on an emergency writ early next week.

"The San Lucas Ranch will take this fight to the finish. Secret meetings cutting zoning deals are illegal, despicable and we intend to set this aside,” he said. 

The attorney said they also are monitoring the newly filed federal lawsuit.

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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