FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 16. 2018
(SANTA YNEZ, Ca.) – At the request of Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled an April 25 public hearing on a bill that would give the Chumash tribe more than 1,400 acres of environmentally sensitive land in the Santa Ynez Valley, north of Santa Barbara, through a “fee to trust” transaction.
A committee hearing on the proposed legislation ensures that Senators will take testimony from the affected community prior to voting on the bill.
The hearing follows a mid-February visit to Washington D.C. by a delegation from the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition, which met with various Senators and staff to press its case against H.R. 1491.
“The fact that the Committee pulled the bill for a hearing – and has invited opposing testimony – underscores the seriousness of the problems with the Camp 4 deal and the potential adverse consequences, not only to the residents in the Santa Ynez Valley but across the nation as well,” said Bill Krauch, Coalition Chair.
Communities across the United States face similar impacts from “fee to trust” land transfers. The transfer of private lands into trust by the US government on behalf of Native American Tribes allows them to circumvent local and state land use regulations – even for developments that are out of character with land use plans, many of which were carefully crafted over years. All other private property owners must comply with these plans.
“There are just too many questions to let this piece of special interest legislation slide through Congress without taking a good, hard look,” said Krauch.
Krauch said that during their February lobbying trip, Coalition members met with staff for Feinstein, Harris and other Congressional representatives, They pointed out serious problems with the 11th-hour fee-to-trust decision, as well as the planned development of the more than 1,400 acres.
Chief among those problems: The hasty, one-sided land use agreement the tribe negotiated with the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, which had previously opposed the project. Under the threat of enactment of H.R. 1491, the Supervisors reversed themselves and voted 4-1 after a raucous public meeting to approve a plan, giving the green light for Camp 4 development.
The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) permits the tribe to build 140 homes and a 12,000-square foot community center, with 250 parking spaces – eight times the number called for under normal building codes. The MOA anticipates the tribe will hold 100 events a year at the center.
Meanwhile, the agreement only obligates the tribe to pay $178,500 a year to offset the financial impact of its development – far less than the real cost of the anticipated impact on public safety, local roads and other County services. Santa Ynez Valley residents must pick up the rest of the tab.
Other issues that the Coalition delegation discussed in Washington:
- The lack of adequate environmental controls over the Camp 4 project. Rather than adhere to state and local regulations like other builders or landowners, the MOA permits the tribe to use a federal environmental assessment the County once argued was wholly inadequate;
- The MOA’s 2040 expiration date, which would leave the tribe free to do whatever it wants with the land, including building another casino;
- The fact that the MOA sets no limits on the amount of groundwater the tribe could export from the aquifer under Camp 4, a major water source for the rest of the Valley’s 22,000 residents.
Krauch said that soon after the February visit, the Coalition was informed the Committee would hold a hearing on April 25 and open the proceedings for testimony from two witnesses, including one in opposition to the measure.
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.