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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on October 17th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 32 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 32

County to oppose Chumash fee-to-trust application

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

Supervisors—overwhelmingly siding with the majority of people who spoke their piece during the most recent Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting—voted Oct. 15 to oppose the Santa Ynez Valley Band of Chumash Indians Camp 4 fee-to-trust application.

“The tribe needs to plan for their future, and we need to plan for ours, so I think we should pursue all avenues of opposition,” 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam said during the meeting. “We can expect all humans to act in their best interest. … I would do the exact same thing. However, I got to do the same thing for myself and my family and for all of you people out there who agree with me; we can’t have somebody taking a big chunk of land—1,400 acres—out of our county.”

The “fee-to-trust” process would deed the 1,400-acre Camp 4 property over to the government on the tribe’s behalf, putting it under sovereign control of the Chumash. The tribe has asked to negotiate with the county about the property, should it be annexed to the Santa Ynez Reservation. Those talks could include discussions on land-use concerns, development impacts, and mitigations for both fiscal and physical impacts.

Of the almost 40 people who spoke during the public comment period of the Board of Supervisors meeting, only three stated a desire for the county to engage in direct dialogue with the tribe. One of those few was Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta.

Armenta spoke for five minutes at the beginning of the hearing, while every other speaker only received two minutes—a time variance that some residents told the board was unfair. During his extra three minutes, Armenta informed everyone that the tribe had withdrawn the volatile tribal consolidation area plan application the previous week.

That application was approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in June, but caused a stir within the Santa Ynez Valley community due to uncertainties about what it actually means and what it would do to property values.

“We didn’t do it to damage anybody’s property value. We didn’t do it to infringe on anybody’s property rights. That was not the intent,” Armenta said. “The intent of the [plan] was to help the tribe plan for the future.”

The plan labels approximately 11,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley as potential land for future tribal acquisition. Some people in the valley community have said that consolidation area approval makes the fee-to-trust process easier for the 1,400-acre Camp 4 parcel.

Now that the tribe has submitted a withdrawal to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the question of what happens to the fee-to-trust application is kind of hanging in the air, said County Executive Officer Chandra Wallar.

“With the federal government shutdown, no one has been able to access the BIA,” Wallar said.

Armenta said the tribe will continue pursuing putting Camp 4 under government trust status, both administratively with the application process and legislatively with members of Congress.

As with many of the meetings on the issue that have taken place over the last couple of months, dissenters voiced concerns over water rights, loss of land-use control, loss of tax revenue, increased traffic, and the agricultural and environmental purity of the valley. They’ve also said negotiating a mitigation contract with the Chumash wouldn’t be enforceable—and therefore wouldn’t be good enough.

Sharon Currie, president of the Santa Ynez Valley Association of Realtors, said she looked up the definition of negotiation on Wikipedia; it means “compromise.”

“There is no compromise here that is satisfactory,” Currie told the board. “Only half of the 70 homes on an [agricultural] parcel, only half of a casino, only half of the rape of our water supply—there is no compromise that works here.”

The Chumash tribe plans to develop the Camp 4 parcel as residential, either in 143 5-acre or 1-acre lots, with some open space and a potential tribal center development. The parcel is currently agriculturally zoned and only allows for 100-acre development plots.

Several speakers applauded the board for the decisions it has made on Chumash matters over the last couple of months. In August, the board opted 3-2 to deny the tribe’s request for government-to-government talks with the county. In September, supervisors voted 4-1 in a closed session meeting to appeal the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ approval of the consolidation area application.

The vote to oppose Camp 4’s fee-to-trust process wasn’t a unanimous decision either: It was 4-1, with 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino dissenting.

“I know I’m not going to bring a lot of joy to this room today, but I’m calling for us to come together, once again, to consider opening dialogue with the tribe to talk about the impacts,” Lavagnino said. “The career-propelling thing for me to do today is to support the appeal and make all of you happy. … The thing that I’ve learned—and I think everyone up here can respect this—is doing what you think is right is the right thing to do.”