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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on November 5th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 14, Issue 35 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 35

Santa Barbara County responds to the Chumash fee-to-trust legislation and application

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM


LAND FIGHT
Santa Barbara County and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians continue the fee-to-trust battle over Camp 4 (pictured).
FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER

Santa Barbara County leaders officially penned their opposition to the recently proposed legislation to allow the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians to annex its Camp 4 property and the fee-to-trust application the tribe filed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding the same property.

The Board of Supervisors wrote letters to Congressman Doug LaMalfa (R-Richvale)—a lead sponsor of the bill introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on the Chumash’s behalf—and Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 30. The letters point out two “critical consequences” that would result from annexing the 1,400-acre Camp 4 property: the county’s loss of tax revenue and land control.

The county asked Congressman LaMalfa to reconsider his bill sponsorship and Gov. Brown to consider voicing his opposition to the bill. The Sun learned that Congressman LaMalfa’s press secretary and legislative director Kevin Eastman is out of the office and has been for the last week. Eastman is the only LaMalfa staffer authorized to speak with the press.

Introduced in late October, the legislation came shortly after a board majority voted to officially oppose the tribe’s fee-to-trust application during an Oct. 15 hearing on the matter.

During that hearing, tribe chairman Vincent Armenta said they would continue to pursue putting Camp 4 under government trust status, both administratively with the application process and legislatively with members of Congress.

Placing a property in fee-to-trust with the government is similar to annexing land. Approval of either the legislation or application would result in the Santa Ynez Reservation gaining 1,400 acres, over which the tribe would have sovereign control.

The county turned in its fee-to-trust application comment letter on Oct. 31.

“The county opposes this trust acquisition because of the substantial and significant potential negative impacts which may result, including jurisdictional problems, conflicts of land use and the loss of revenues needed to support public services, as a direct result of removal from the county’s tax roll,” the opposition letter states.

When the tribe bought the land in 2010 from descendants of Fess Parker, one of their big goals for the property was to develop more tribal housing. There isn’t space for further development on the tribe’s current reservation, where only about 17 percent of tribal members and lineal descendants are living.

Tentative development plans outlined in an environmental assessment submitted to the BIA call for 143 separate plots for tribal members to build homes, as well as open space, riparian and oak tree corridors, and the potential to build a tribal center. 

Sam Cohen, who handles government affairs for the tribe, told the Sun that developing Camp 4 through the county would be nearly impossible. The property is currently agriculturally zoned and would need to be re-zoned to align with the tribe’s development plans. He also added that having independent control of their own land is a tribe’s right.

“Our position is: To require the tribe to go through the county process is to perpetuate the insult that the tribe is not an independent government and should not be treated as such,” Cohen said.