The deadline for comment by Santa Barbara County officials on the proposed fee-to-trust acquisition of the 1,400-acre Camp 4 property by the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has been extended to early November, according to an email Monday to constituents from the office of 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr.
About two miles east of the Santa Ynez Reservation and the Chumash Casino Resort, the land, known locally as “Camp 4,” is at the northeast corner of highways 154 and 246 and Armour Ranch Road. The tribe owns the agricultural site but wants to add it to the reservation as sovereign land rather than private property.
To accomplish that, tribal leaders filed a fee-to-trust application with the Pacific Regional Office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in mid-July.
If made part of the reservation through the process, the sovereign tribal land would become exempt from local and state taxes and local planning and zoning laws.
Purchased in April 2010 from Fess Parker Enterprises, the 1,390 acres, which is the size of Solvang, would be subdivided to solve a housing shortage on the reservation with the construction of 143 single-family homes on part of it.
With a 15-day extension granted by the BIA for comments on the application, the new deadline is Nov. 7. The county Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss whether to appeal the fee-to-trust application, which has been deemed complete by the BIA, on Tuesday, Oct. 15 when the board meets in the hearing room on the fourth floor of the county administration building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.
To review and respond to the application, the county had sought a 60-day extension of a 30-day comment period which was set to expire on Oct. 22.
If a majority of the board decides to appeal, the extension would “give staff sufficient time to prepare the necessary documentation and submit it before the deadline,” the email said.
A fee-to-trust application appeal by the county would be in addition to the county’s appeal filed in September of a Tribal Consolidation Area (TCA) overlay that includes the Camp 4 parcels and hundreds of
privately-owned homes and businesses. The area totals 11,500 acres, all of which were at one time native tribal land and the subject of a late 19th century lawsuit.
BIA Pacific Regional Director Amy Dutschke approved the tribe’s proposed Land Consolidation and Acquisition Plan in June without formal notice and no input from the community. It is included in the fee-to-trust application.
The Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) has consolidated the county TCA appeal and those of several Santa Ynez Valley community groups and individuals into a single case.
Whether the county’s request to suspend the processing of the Camp 4 fee-to-trust application while the TCA hearing is going forward will be honored was not indicated by the IBIA, the email said.
The Chumash TCA is unprecedented in California and one of only a few approved in the nation.
It is defined as “a specific area of land with respect to which the tribe has prepared, and the Secretary of the Interior or authorized representative has approved, a plan for the acquisition of land in trust status for the tribe,” according to the bureau.
Top concerns regarding the TCA center around negative impacts on property values and real estate sales.
Under the TCA, Camp 4 is treated as land contiguous to the reservation or on-reservation. For land within the TCA, the acquisition process is less rigorous than the one for off-reservation property.
Any construction on Camp 4 would be subject to rules and review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers. Oversight for development would be by the BIA in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, tribal officials said.
Although the tribe has said it would make no economic sense to build another casino, nothing could stop them from building one or some other high-density development if the land becomes part of the tribe’s sovereign reservation, opponents have noted.
However, tribal officials have said federal restrictions would prohibit that.
Some opponents also have said that moving tribal housing off the existing reservation would open up space there for another casino.
Under the tribe’s compact with the state, the Chumash could expand gaming on the reservation, Armenta said at a January public meeting about Camp 4, but that is unlikely.