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Chumash Camp 4 Annexation Bill Set to Go Before U.S. House Subcommittee on Wednesday

The fate of a bill that would place a large parcel of land near the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians reservation into federal trust could be determined this week, when a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee will consider its merit.

HR 1157, known as the “Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians Land Transfer Act of 2015,” is set to go before the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

The bill proposed by Rep. Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representing California’s 1st District, is especially contentious because its passage could render past pleas from Santa Barbara County officials and residents moot.

If passed, the law would authorize the U.S. Secretary of Interior to take the 1,433-acre agriculture parcel known as Camp 4 and place it into federal trust, joining it to the tribe's sovereign territory and removing it from county tax rolls and planning oversight.

The local tribe has said it bought the land in question along Highway 246 from the late Fess Parker in 2010 to build homes for Chumash tribal families.

HR 1157 would prohibit gambling on the site where the Chumash hope to build 143 residential units, but the bill places no other development restrictions.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the tribe’s fee-to-trust application in late 2014, but the decision can’t be official until appeals filed by the county Board of Supervisors and other Santa Ynez Valley organizations are resolved.

That process is under way, with no hearing date set.

Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens, Save the Valley and other groups put a call out to locals in an email this week, asking them to write to their elected officials.

The groups urged Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, and Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr to attend to voice concerns for those who don’t support a bill “being pushed by out-of-the-area interests.”

As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill, Capps plans to be at Wednesday’s meeting to continue sharing her opposition of the federal legislation, her staff said.

One Santa Barbara County official was allowed to attend the invitation-only event, according to Chris Henson, chief of staff for Farr, who represents the valley.

County CEO Mona Miyasato will go in Farr’s place, however, since the supervisor has a family emergency, Henson said. Supervisors voted 3-2 last week to designate Miyasato to speak in opposition to the bill, with First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino dissenting.

According to the subcommittee’s website, Lavagnino is also supposed to give testimony.

Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta was en route to the nation’s capital Monday and couldn’t be reached for comment.

HR 1157 sponsor LaMalfa, who serves on the subcommittee along with some of the eight cosponsors, introduced a bill in October 2013 asking for the same action. That bill never made it out of its first House committee.

The new bill clarifies that certain California state laws would no longer apply to Camp 4, such as the Williamson Act, which offers property tax relief to farmland owners who maintain an agricultural use for a 10-year period, guaranteeing land won’t be developed or converted to another use.

Wednesday’s hearing is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in the 1324 Longworth House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

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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