Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 2:56 pm | Partly Cloudy 68º

 
 
 
 

Letter to the Editor: Tribal Needs and Moving Forward — as Neighbors

The struggle over Camp 4 and making it virtually part of the Chumash reservation through the “fee to trust” process has pitted neighbor against neighbor here in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The struggle has played out in the courts, in County and State government, in the executive offices of the president, and even in the United States Congress. 

Perhaps it’s time for all of us to pause, take a step back, and see how we might work this out as neighbors before we wind up with an externally-imposed solution that will leave us permanently, bitterly divided. 

At issue is a need for 143 houses for members of the Chumash Tribe. Some individuals might not agree, but the need has been validated by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, and thus the process undertaken by the BIA to take Camp 4 into federal trust, to allow the Tribe to build the housing.

Comments by some U.S. Congressmen have indicated, given the inflexibility of land use policies and permitting processes in Santa Barbara County, they see no other way to provide the housing.

The county and many residents take issue with removing land from county control and moving it into federal trust because the land is removed from county tax rolls and land use regulations forever. 

The “forever” part also leads to fears that someday the Tribe could change its mind and use part of Camp 4 for purposes beyond housing — commercial uses, intensive development, or even gaming.

So for all parties concerned, how can we make this win-win-win? Success for the Tribe is their needed 143 houses. Success for the County is keeping Camp 4 on the tax rolls and within county development guidelines. 

Success for the community is the assurance that a beautiful, agricultural gateway will not devolve into unsightly and uncontrolled development. 

An unexpected recent development opens a pathway to the win-win-win scenario. All three parties will have to be flexible and give a little bit…but might end in a result that keeps us all good neighbors and ends the fighting. 

The unexpected development is the Tribe’s recent purchase of the “Triangle” property that is bordered by Hwy 246, Hwy 154 and Meadowvale Road, to the immediate east of the Santa Ynez urban boundary. 

As a civil engineer and Stanford-trained infrastructure planner, to me the Triangle property is a far better place for the Tribe’s 143 houses, which would be appended to an existing urban area, instead of displacing prime agricultural lands out in the countryside. 

It would be more efficient, inexpensive and environmentally responsible to hook up to existing utilities such as electricity, water and sewage. The tribal members would be within walking distance of the amenities in Santa Ynez. 

It would also be an opportunity to improve the eastern gateway to Santa Ynez, which is admittedly a bit raw with respect to aesthetics as viewed from Hwy 246. 

All parties will have to be flexible. The Tribe will have to give up their plans for an expanded reservation — but will achieve a win by getting the housing they need faster and cheaper.

The county will have to be flexible and move quickly to update community plans and approve permits — but will achieve a win by keeping all lands under county stewardship. 

Members of the community will have to swallow hard and watch the Tribe gain privileged permitting — but will achieve a win by being assured there is no pathway to expanded development or gaming.

Win-win-win. An end to lawsuits, external meddling and escalating distrust. 

When it’s all over, we’ll be good neighbors that have shown the world we can come together to work through our disagreements and fears and live in harmony.

— Bruce Porter is a candidate for Third District supervisor in Santa Barbara County.

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