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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 17th, 2016, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 16, Issue 50

Camp 4 talks heat up over taxes, gaming plans


Monthly discussions between the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and the County of Santa Barbara Ad Hoc Subcommittee continued Thursday, Feb. 11, carrying on the groups’ attempt to agree on terms for Camp 4, a portion of land the tribe intends to submit into federal trust.

Points of contention in last week’s meeting included tribal compensation for potential property tax loss and the tribe’s reluctance to prohibit gaming on Camp 4.

As for property tax compensation, the county has requested that the Chumash pay 38 percent of 1 percent of the property’s market valuation—treating Camp 4 as an unincorporated community—while the tribe has offered 13 percent of that 1 percent, modeled off of Buellton’s property tax agreement.

Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said the county deserves larger compensation because it provides services to the tribe’s lands. Chumash legal adviser Sam Cohen argued that the tribal government provides enough services to its own people to justify a 13-percent compensation.

“The tribe self-provides all those functions for their own members and their descendants, so the tribe feels like it is providing all the municipal functions of a Buellton or a Solvang,” Cohen said. “That’s why we’re still staying with the original property tax split of a Buellton model.”

Farr said that while she appreciated tribal government services, tribal members would still require county aid on some levels.

“I just don’t see the equivalent there,” she said. “That’s why I think it’s important that there be a larger percentage payment for the valuation of the loss of what would normally be the taxes of the property if it didn’t go into trust.”

Chumash Chairman Vincent Armenta said the tribe contracts independently with the fire and sheriff’s departments.

“As a matter of fact, we pay nearly as much as the city of Solvang,” Armenta said, “so when we talk about providing these services, we either provide them ourselves as a government or we have agreements with the county and pay for a 127-acre reservation as much as for an entire city.”

He continued, arguing that the tribe uses fewer of those services than cities in Santa Barbara County do—but Farr said county-tribe agreements regarding the existing reservation couldn’t also apply to Camp 4.

“There is specific language in those agreements saying they don’t apply to Camp 4 or other properties,” she said. “We are talking about a new development that creates new, additional impacts that are not covered by whatever the scope of services are for these agreements.” 

The parties did not reach an agreement on the property tax topic, which led to further conversation about the county’s proposal to apply sales tax and transient occupancy tax (TOT) to Camp 4, which the tribe rejected.

Farr said that if the tribe stuck to its agreed use of Camp 4 for just housing and tribal facilities, the property would generate neither sales tax nor TOT.

“It’s only if you decided to build something else on there that might generate that,” Farr said to the Chumash representatives. “I think our request on this should probably not have any importance for you if indeed you have no plans in the future to build anything other than housing and tribal facilities, because they don’t generate that.”

Again the Chumash and subcommittee failed to reach agreement, and Farr expressed concern that the tribe might divert from their plan to restrict development on Camp 4 to housing and tribal facilities.

“We were kind of taken aback that the tribe seemed to not be willing to make an unequivocal statement that there would not be gaming on any part of Camp 4,” Farr said. “And so we’re reiterating the fact that we want an unequivocal statement about no gaming on Camp 4.”

Armenta said that the tribe fully intends to comply with legislation prohibiting gaming on Camp 4—however, should that legislation change in the future, he wouldn’t want a tribe-county agreement to block tribe access to gaming rights.

“I specifically requested language in that bill to exclude gaming,” he said. “We’re willing to continue to do that through the legislative process. If the law, whether it be federal or state through any other avenue that this goes into trust, allows it, I’m not going to waive that right of the tribe.”

He compared the county’s request for the Chumash to promise no gaming on Camp 4 to the tribe hypothetically asking the county to commit to a certain zoning forever.

“I think the county’s response to me is going to be no,” Armenta said. “And that’s exactly what I’m telling you. No.”

The Chumash and subcommittee will reconvene next month for continued discussion on these topics. 

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What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

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