Archive » December 22, 2011
Tribe fails to get letter of support
By Jeremy Foster, Staff Writer
The controversy over the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ plan to place 1,400 acres into federal trust spilled over to the Lompoc City Council chambers Tuesday, with tribal chairman Vincent Armenta requesting a letter of support for the annexation from a city he said benefits from the Chumash Casino & Resort.
“We feel it’s important to have local government support on this because, just like our government, the cities of Lompoc, Goleta and Santa Maria are all trying to annex land,” he told the five-member council. “We’re one of the largest employers for Lompoc residents. This resolution means that the city of Lompoc really recognizes the tribe as a government.”
The tribe wants to take into federal trust an agriculturally property known as “Camp 4,” located at the juncture of highways 154 and 246 and purchased last year from the estate of the late Fess Parker. Troubling many Valley residents is the tribe’s plan to bypass county planning through the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs or through federal legislation.
After hearing from a dozen supporters and opponents, the council effectively killed the resolution by not reaching a roll call vote after council members Cecilia Martner, Bob Lingl and Dirk Starbuck said they would vote against the letter because the council handbook directs them to take action only on issues within the city’s jurisdiction.
“There are also about 3,000 Lompoc residents that work in Santa Barbara and Goleta,” Martner noted. “Does that mean we have to start getting into their council business about how they’ll use their land? I believe in local power and local control, and the decision is not mine, but the affected jurisdictions.”
Costa said the handbook directed them to avoid only proposed legislation outside the city and that a resolution was a different matter. But she did agree that the tribe’s plan was outside the scope of the city of Lompoc.
Armenta says Camp 4, just 2 miles east of the casino and about 2 miles in size, will ease overcrowding on the tribe’s 137-acre reservation by providing housing for its 138 enrolled tribal members and their more than 500 children.
As in other forums where the tribe’s plan was batted around, passions flared Tuesday over whether the tribe intended to limit its plan to housing.
“The tribe has no intentions nor will law allow us to build a casino on this land,” Armenta said from the outset. The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act makes it “virtually impossible” to build a casino on reservation land acquired after 1988, he noted. Providing gaming on land taken into trust could only happen with approval from the Secretary of the Interior and the governor.
“We’ve heard the Chumash say many things that were not true, starting back when they were a small parking structure that turned out to be multiple stories high,” a Solvang woman said. “It’s not uncommon for the tribe to make promises and then go the other direction.”
“Taking this 1,400 acres off the tax rolls would burden the tax-paying citizens,” said the woman, clad in black to signify that the Valley’s way of life would be shattered should the tribe succeed in taking the land into trust.
Another speaker held up his VIP Black Club Chumash Card and said as a “desired customer” who frequents the casino, “you’d be shocked and appalled at what takes place there. There are prostitutes, counterfeit money, drug transactions, muggings and gun fire in the garage.
“This is not a happy go-lucky place where you would want your children,” he added.
Former Santa Barbara Planning Commissioner C.J. Jackson urged the council to hit the pause button and let city staff analyze the issue before it made a decision. He said once the tribe takes a land into trust, it could change its project description. “It’s very hard when you have a moving target to establish what the burdens are actually going to be to the community,” he warned.
A casino employee and Lompoc resident said the claims about violence and drugs were untrue. “All they’re asking for is housing,” he said. “They live in cramped close quarters, and all they’re asking for is what the American dream offers.”
Solvang mayor Jim Richardson said he wasn’t speaking on behalf of his council, but he pointed out that his re-election campaign boiled down to “water, parks, and no casino expansion, and no reservation expansion.”
“We’re quite aware of the benefits and the downsides of casino gambling,” he said.” I believe tribal leaders when they say they will not put a casino on Camp 4. But I believe when they remove the houses from the current reservation, it will leave room for casino expansion.”