At its meeting today, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider a matter that will have a profound impact on the future of the Santa Ynez Valley and all Santa Barbara County residents.
In September, after months of closed-door meetings, Santa Barbara County and the Chumash announced a “tentative intergovernmental agreement” regarding Camp 4, a 1,400-acre parcel of open space and agricultural land in the Santa Ynez Valley. This agreement purportedly defines how the Chumash will be able to develop this property over the next 23 years.
A little over a month ago the agreement was released for public review and comment. To its credit, the county held a series of public meetings which provided residents the opportunity to express their views about this agreement and ask questions about it. These meetings were well-attended, and residents shared their concerns and questions.
Several things have become clear after participating in these meetings.
First, the county has a metaphorical gun pointed at its head to cut a deal with the Chumash, irrespective of how bad it is for the Santa Ynez Valley and residents. As Supervisor Hartmann repeatedly stated in these recent meetings on Camp 4, there is pending federal legislation, HR 1491, which is forcing the county's hand requiring them to accept this deal. The county even had to seek the tribe's permission to delay its meeting to allow the public the time needed to understand this agreement better.
In backroom meetings in Washington, the Chumash are lobbying Congress for HR 1491, a bill that gives the tribe a blank check to do anything it wants on Camp 4, including building massive commercial and residential developments. So in essence, if the county approves this agreement in its current form, it is rewarding the Chumash for tilting the negotiating table in its favor.
Second, a key theme emerges in the county's responses to citizen concerns and questions. Regarding the limitations on the tribe's use of Camp 4, the county is relying almost exclusively on the environmental assessment (EA) that was used as the basis for the decision to add Camp 4 to the Chumash reservation. Doing so provides no assurances to residents that the Chumash will uphold their end of the deal.
This is the same EA the county went to federal court to challenge, saying the federal government "failed to conduct the appropriate environmental review under NEPA before approving the acquisition (of Camp 4).”
In our view, the only way to assure compliance by the tribe is to explicitly incorporate these limitations on the future use of Camp 4 directly into the agreement, which is currently not the case. One wonders why the tribe did not want to include those limitations directly in the agreement.
Below are four areas where the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition think the agreement is lacking: It provides NO guarantees that Camp 4 open space and ag land will be conserved:
The agreement puts all county taxpayers on the hook to pay public safety and other costs to meet the needs of Chumash Camp 4 development; it contains no specific prohibition against gaming on Camp 4; and it does not expressly prohibit the tribe exporting water from Camp 4.
There are others, but we wanted to give you these four. For more discussion on other concerns we have with this agreement, please go to our website at www.SYVCoalition.com.
Citizens can still act and speak out. As previously noted, the Board of Supervisors will consider this agreement at its meeting today, at 9 a.m. The meeting will take place at the board hearing room, 105 E. Anapumu St., Santa Barbara. Please attend this meeting and speak up.