Saturday, August 18, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 24

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 27th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 30 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 30

Tentative Camp 4 agreement met with backlash


After years of heated debate, a Santa Barbara County ad hoc subcommittee recently released a summary of its tentative agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians concerning development on Camp 4—a 1,400-acre parcel of land acquired by the tribe in 2010 and placed into federal trust by the Bureau of Indian Affairs in January of 2017.

Subcommittee members including 1st District County Supervisor Das Williams and 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann spoke on the agreement at a public meeting in Los Olivos on Sept. 25. Despite their pleas for a respectful discourse, officials were repeatedly reprimanded and even booed by more than 100 Santa Ynez Valley residents who showed up to condemn the agreement and the process through which it was reached.

Santa Ynez residents concerned with Santa Barbara County’s tentative agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians regarding Camp 4 filled every seat at a Sept. 25 meeting at Saint Mark’s in-the-Valley Episcopal Church in Los Olivos where there were boos directed toward 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann.

During more than an hour of public comment, residents shared concerns over the “devil in the details.” Several commenters asked why the public couldn’t see the actual agreement—officials provided a brief PowerPoint and handout listing the agreement’s major points—and whether gaming, buildings of certain height, and casino development would be prohibited.

“This community gathered tonight in an emergency fashion only to have to us read out loud the same summary-level document published online a couple of days ago,” valley resident Leslie Mosteller said. “No detail, no schedule, no information of substance. This waste of our time is not taken lightly or thought to be accidental.”

Mosteller went on to say that she didn’t feel accurately represented by her elected officials or the subcommittee. Mosteller’s comments were met with applause, and at one point, another audience member shouted, “Indian money.”

Hartmann was later booed when she asked the audience to hold its applause.

Although Williams and Hartmann joined the committee in February, it has existed since 2015. Since then, Hartmann said the committee has met in public meetings with the tribe nine times to discuss the future of Camp 4, land the tribe hopes to use for housing development and a cultural center.

The Chumash agreed to develop this property in 143 1-acre residential lots and 30-plus acres for tribal facilities.

The agreement, which many residents said was arrived at behind closed doors and under pressure from the U.S. Congress, states that the tribe cannot build within 984 feet of Highway 154, and all buildings must comply with state safety codes and a strict water use mitigation and monitoring plan.

To offset the potential costs Camp 4 development could cause the County, the tribe would pay an annual fee of $178,500 to the County, which would begin when the agricultural preserve contract expires in 2023 and end when the tentative agreement is scheduled to expire in 2040.

Many residents questioned why the agreement is set to end in 20 years, and asked what would become of Camp 4 after that date.

“I’m a fourth generation son of the Santa Ynez Valley, and I’m raising my children to be fifth generation in the Santa Ynez Valley,” resident Alex Jones said before pausing to wipe away tears. “I’m sorry to get emotional, it’s just thinking about my home, our home, being changed forever irreversibly is unacceptable.”

The agreement would also require the Chumash to provide a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, which would allow the tribe to be sued in federal and state courts over disputes relating to the agreement. Before the agreement takes affect, the county would first dismiss a federal lawsuit filed against the tribe earlier this year and would work with Congress to support, with amendments relating to the agreement, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act of 2017.

The possibility of another lawsuit came up when David Cosineau of Capello and Noel LLP said during public comment that the agreement outlined at the meeting didn’t comply with the county’s legal process.

Cosineau said his firm stood before the ad hoc committee 18 months ago and stressed the importance of the process for the agreement and said that his firm could pursue a public benefit lawsuit against the county. He recommended officials check with county counsel on the matter.

The agreement will go before the Board of Supervisors at a hearing on Oct. 3, and other public meetings for the Santa Ynez Valley are being planned.

Supervisor Williams said he couldn’t help but feel disappointed in the tone of the Sept. 25 meeting, and added that many of the details residents questioned are included in the lengthy, complex agreement.

The closing comment was met with many facetious laughs in the audience. One member yelled, “Prove it.”

Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn told the audience members that many of their questions echoed those asked by the representatives in their first discussions. Although officials did not answer questions at the meeting, answers and further details will be available online at later this week, they said.

“I feel confident there are some answers to come,” Kahn said.

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