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Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors OKs Pact With Chumash For Camp 4 Development

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted to approve a compromise agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians regarding plans for the 1,400-acre property known as Camp 4. 

The action came during a five-hour special meeting held in Santa Barbara where Chairwoman Joan Hartmann was joined by Supervisors Janet Wolf, Das Williams and Steve Lavagnino in voting for the agreement, which was described as historic. Supervisor Peter Adam opposed the pact. 

“This is not about selling out the valley,” said Hartmann, whose district includes the Santa Ynez Valley. “We have two paths forward. We can adopt this enforceable agreement and work to reform fee-to-trust or we can choose not to adopt this agreement and watch H.R. 1491 pass as early as next week, getting no controls.”

The bill, H.R. 1491, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act of 2017, is pending in Congress. The legislation would ratify the Department of the Interior's action to place the Camp 4 land into trust for the Chumash tribe and ultimately dismiss any appeals about the acquisition of the land.

“This is such as an challenging issue,” Hartmann added. “It's an emotional issue. It's about home. It's about trust. It's about tribal self determination.”

She said the agreement should serve as a starting point for talks with tribal leaders to become better neighbors and work toward greater harmony. 

Tribal members previously approved the Memorandum of Agreement and authorized Chairman Kenneth Kahn to sign the document.

Scroll down to read the agreement.

“This agreement was meant as a bridge builder,” Kahn said, noting earlier comments referencing that some groups, typically on opposite sides of issues, were supporting the agreement.

“This is historic,” he added. “It’s monumental. This is just the beginning of what two governments can achieve when we sit down and have tough conversations.” 

The contentious issue drew nearly three hours of public comment from foes and friends of the agreement with at least one threat that Hartmann would be the target of a recall effort.

The agreement hashed out by an ad-hoc subcommittee — made up of Hartmann and Williams meeting with Kahn — covers approximately 1,400 acres of land near the intersection of Highways 154 and 246 acquired by the Chumash in 2010.

Under the agreement, the tribe would develop 143 homes on one-acre lots with residential uses filling more than 190 acres. A 12,000-square-foot tribal hall and other facilities would sit on 30 acres, with 250 parking spaces, 100 events hosted annually and no alcohol allowed.

A little more than 200 acres would be used for agricultural and nearly 870 acres designated for recreational open space. Other land would be kept for resource management and preservation of oak woodland. 

Three acres would be used for utilities, including a wastewater treatment plant. 

The agreement calls for the county to drop the federal lawsuit filed earlier this year objecting to Camp 4 being taken into trust.

It also provides a waiver of sovereign immunity for the length of the agreement, which runs through 2040.

“The Tribe has expressly, and irrevocably, waived for the term of this agreement its right to assert immunity from suit and enforcement and execution of any ensuing judgment or award and has consented to be sued in the federal and state courts for issues that may arise solely under the agreement,” county staff said in a letter to the board. 

“Without a local agreement with an enforceable waiver by the tribe there are no protections,” said Assistant County Executive Officer Terri Nisich.

Under the agreement, the tribe would pay $178,500 annually to cover county costs with payments to begin after the expiration of the Williamson “Ag Preserves” Act in 2023.

If the tribe seeks cancellation of the ag preserves designation before it expires, then payments would begin once the first home is completed at Camp 4.

Terms of the agreement only apply to Camp 4 and prohibit any gaming or commercial activity on the land. 

Supporters say the agreement benefits the county in many ways, while opponents argue the pact doesn’t go far enough for protect the county. 

Adam said his objections centered on financial issues, including the annual payment, not land use or other concerns. That agreement does not include an annual cost of living adjustment for the annual payment, he noted. 

“I have some grave concerns about the fiscal impacts to our county organization as a result of approving this,” Adam said.

He also objected to an end date for the agreement and called it “a bad deal for the county.” 

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.

Memorandum of Agreement Between Santa Barbara County and Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians 

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