(WASHINGTON DC) – In specially arranged testimony today, Bill Krauch – long-time Santa Ynez Valley resident and Chair of the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition – urged a Senate Committee to reject a bill that will allow the Chumash tribe to build a massive development on Camp 4 over the objections of the community.
Krauch walked the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs through the back-story that led to special interest bill, H.R. 1491, which “affirms” a controversial Bureau of Indian Affairs decision paving the way for the tribe to build a 143-home subdivision and 12,500-foot meeting hall with 250 parking spaces – eight times what is called for under building codes.
The Camp 4 fee to trust decision came on the last day of the Obama Administration. An acting BIA Administrator rejected various administrative appeals filed by Santa Barbara County, the Coalition, individuals and other citizen groups to keep the agency from taking the 1,400-acre parcel into a federal trust and “annexing” it to the Chumash reservation. Using its sovereign power, the Tribe could then build without paying property taxes or complying with strict state and local zoning and environmental regulations.
“Our administrative appeal right was taken from us in the waning hours of the Obama Administration in the dark of night,” said Krauch. “The BIA approved the Chumash fee-to-trust application notwithstanding the strong local opposition and without a sufficient record to make a final decision.”
Krauch said that the legislation, introduced weeks after the BIA decision, was used to force County officials into signing an “anemic” Memorandum of Agreement for the development adequate safeguards – and expires in 22 years, after which the Tribe is allowed to do anything it wants with the land.
“It was a product of a badly flawed negotiating process between the Tribe and Santa Barbara County, where the Board of Supervisors was effectively bullied into signing a weak, fiscally irresponsible MOA, whose limited restrictions sunset in just over two decades.”
Krauch said that if Congress didn’t reject the bill, it had to overhaul it to address community concerns, Among the revisions he requested:
- Locate tribal housing and community facilities on a site other than Camp 4, reducing the impact of development on the existing community.
- Extend the length the agreement. The Tribe/County MOA expires in 2040, approximately 22-years from today, shorter than the average mortgage of a home.
- Protect Santa Ynez Valley’s water by clarifying what water rights are conveyed to the Tribe and which remain with the county, averting substantial litigation in the future.
- Allow citizen suits to enforce the MOA. Under the Chumash-County MOA, and the terms of HR 1491, Santa Barbara County is the only party that can enforce its terms. This request is to ensure that obligations regarding Camp 4 are enforced.
- Prevent a gaming bait-and-switch. Although H.R. 1491 permanently prohibits gaming on Camp 4, it does not prevent expansion of gaming by the Chumash. After the homes on the existing reservation are no longer needed after new homes are built on Camp 4, the existing reservation land could be used to build a second casino or significantly expand the existing one.
In closing, Mr. Krauch reminded the committee that the coalition is not in opposition to the Tribe or to the development of tribal lands.
“We understand and recognize that the Chumash are our neighbors, and we are committed to helping them address their housing needs. All we are asking is the same thing that is asked of every non-tribal resident in the Valley — that they help us conserve its character and resources for all future generations.”
The mission of the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition is ensuring that the Santa Ynez Valley residents have a voice in land use decisions affecting our water, environment, public safety and economy and opposes “Fee to Trust” efforts by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. The Coalition engages in outreach and education efforts with policymakers and residents regarding the importance of maintaining local control of land use in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Member organizations comprising represent the views of thousands of Santa Ynez Valley residents and include: Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens, No More Slots, the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance, and WE Watch.