At a recent fall evening meeting, the outline of the long-anticipated county/Chumash tribal agreement was presented.
The actual document itself, however, was not made public. It was instead, termed a “tentative” agreement.
Requests to postpone the scheduled Board of Supervisors hearing on Oct. 17 were flatly rejected.
This exposes the fact that the agreement is indeed not tentative, but final.
The agreement was reached in secret meetings over the past six months. As of Sept. 27, the document had not been published. Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann said the components of the deal totaled over 1,000 pages. Now the public has about two weeks to review and comment on a document that will impact the character of the Santa Ynez Valley for generations to come.
What is exposed here is that our policy makers simply don't have the time to be bothered with pesky comments from residents. They are doing important work here. The process, orchestrated with the tribe, finalizes an agreement that cannot be modified based on public input.
Announcing a new level of cooperation and mutual understanding, the county and tribal representatives lauded this new process as the basis for future negotiations. Apparently, they envision that all agreements will be made behind closed doors without consultation with the public.
What we did learn from the county/tribal power-point presentation, a 20-minute overview of what is to come, is the tribe will develop 143 houses and a tribal center on the Camp 4 property. After 2040 the tribe can do as it chooses with this land.
Other highlights include the county receiving $178,500 annually starting 2023 and terminating in 2040 — a pittance compared to the long-term costs to taxpayers of tribal development on Camp 4. A 952-foot setback from Highway 154 without height or density restrictions on buildings ends in 2040. Viewsheds from south, east and north are left unprotected. One-acre lots back up to Armour Ranch Road. A 200-space parking lot is accessed off Baseline Avenue.
Neither the Triangle, 365 acres between Camp 4 and the existing casino/resort owned by the Chumash, nor the tribe’s about 22 other properties in Santa Barbara County are addressed in the tentative agreement. The agreement is silent on future land acquisitions by the tribe.
But, the taxpayer is supposed to feel good because we now have a friendly process established for any or all of the tribal properties that will go from fee into trust in the future. Negotiations will be secret and final, attempting to eliminate public review.
I staunchly support Chumash tribal housing and a tribal center. If this is what the tribe’s Business Council truly wants, they would have it.
But this is not all it wants. What becomes apparent is that it is seeking to enrich itself by eliminating taxes and shifting the tax burden onto non-tribal taxpayers. It wants the freedom to develop the land it owns as it sees fit, without respect for land-use laws and without respect for the communities that surround it.
For those who think this can only happen in the Santa Ynez Valley, you better think again. The Chumash have the wealth and the power to acquire land anywhere in the county. When the tribe has maxed out its economic opportunities in the Valley, a next step could be a casino/resort along the Gaviota Coast.
But the county and the tribe have established a process to handle these dozens of fee-to-trust applications by the Chumash. Rest assured.