Tuesday, September 30, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 29
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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on August 26th, 2014, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 15, Issue 25 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 15, Issue 25

County to meet with Chumash about casino expansion

BY CAMILLIA LANHAM

County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato has a list of mitigation requests for a meeting her office has scheduled with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians on Aug. 28.

The list, stemming from the proposed Chumash Casino Resort expansion, was finalized during the Aug. 26 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting, and it’s pretty long. County staff analyzed the project’s environmental evaluation released in July and presented the “potentially significant impacts” that would be felt off the reservation should the expansion take place.

Some of the impacts listed include an obstructed view, lights, and glare from the proposed 12-story hotel tower; air quality issues; straining water resources that are already under duress because of the drought; potential noise issues stemming from increased use of the casino and a proposed rooftop pool; strain on public services such as fire, law enforcement, schools, and parks; increased traffic; induced population and housing growth; land-use conflicts; and a potential for wastewater and storm water to exceed drainage capacities.

The comment period for the environmental evaluation ended on Aug. 13, and the county requested a meeting to discuss off-reservation impacts with the tribe on Aug. 4.

In the public comment portion of the hearing, Santa Barbara County residents brought up some of the same issues that have followed Chumash projects around for years—the most prominent of which is not wanting development on the reservation or surrounding tribally owned lands.

“This continued growth isn’t going to be good for the valley,” one commenter said. “Just because something is allowable doesn’t make it right.”

Andy Caldwell with Santa Barbara County’s Coalition for Labor, Agriculture, and Business told the board he’s been repeating himself for 15 years when it comes to tribal development.

“Nothing’s going to change or get better in the valley until you establish a government-to-government relationship with the tribe,” Caldwell said. “Animosity and acrimony are continuing to grow … and nothing is getting better, nothing is getting solved. … How can you as supervisors establish a meaningful dialogue?”

He added that they needed to work with the tribe to come up with a development plan for tribal lands, one that could be used in the future when situations like the current casino expansion arise.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district contains the reservation, responded to Caldwell’s comments by saying a project of this size would normally go through the county’s planning process, but the casino expansion is unique because it’s on tribal lands and subject to a state compact, not county laws.

“If a project of this particular size and magnitude were proposed by someone else, my concerns would be the same,” Farr said. “This is a land-use issue.”

 She added that the county couldn’t make development plans for land it has no control over.

 “We are trying to communicate and have a real dialogue here with the county through the CEO’s office and the leadership of the tribe,” Farr said.

She also pointed out that California Attorney General Kamala Harris submitted a comment letter on the Chumash environmental evaluation on behalf of the governor’s office. It’s the first time the governor has submitted comment on an issue in her district. The letter said that among other things, the evaluation wasn’t significant enough and requested a more thorough evaluation such as an environmental impact statement.

First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal said during the meeting that there’s no doubt this project has some significant impacts, adding that being engaged in government-to-government dialogue could have helped alleviate some of those.

“Perhaps we could have discussed this and other plans before now,” Carbajal said. “We denied ourselves the opportunity to have that dialogue.”