If you think local residents’ interest is waning in what the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians plans to do with its Camp 4 property, the fact that more than 200 people turned out for a public meeting last week could change your mind.

Camp 4 is the local label for about 1,400 acres the tribe purchased from the late Fess Parker, land strategically located along Highway 154 in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The property has been a hot topic for several years, and also the subject of negotiations between the Chumash and Santa Barbara County over its eventual use, and how the tribe intends to compensate the county for property taxes and other fees associated with land development.

It has been a contentious debate, ultimately resulting in a sort of government-to-government showdown, after the county asked the tribe to waive its sovereignty status with regard to what will be built on the Camp 4 land. Tribal officials turned the tables by suggesting they’d forego Chumash sovereignty if county government would agree to do the same. That was the end of that phase of negotiations.

But they’ve kept at it, with the help of an ad-hoc subcommittee whose purpose is to iron out some of the wrinkles in the dispute.

The subcommittee’s work finally went on display, and the text of the county/tribe agreement is now available, as is an overlay map of the property showing what the Chumash plan to do there.

In a truly sane world, that could signal the end of the battle between the tribe, its development/business plans, and county residents upset by the tribe’s commercial ventures growth.

But, as we all know, the world is not entirely sane, and the battle between the Chumash and some of their neighbors is far from over. That fact became clear after recent meetings, when tribal opponents continued to criticize the federal government’s intervention on the tribe’s behalf — even after the tribe agreed to waive elements of its sovereignty, specifically its immunity to lawsuits. 

The agreement also includes the tribe’s payment of what county services would cost, about $178,000 a year.

The tribe scores some concessions as well. The county will have no permitting authority over development plans at Camp 4, however, the tribe has agreed to meet some standards, including not developing any buildings or solar energy projects within about 1,000 feet of Highway 154.

Our guess is the Chumash will do a superior job of developing that property, in part because tribal members were stewards of the land long before current residents were born. It is in their best interests to do so.

We can’t imagine a scenario in which the Chumash would build anything that clashes with its Valley surroundings, given the pastoral nature of that large parcel of land.

Still, there is a level of distrust among many of the tribe’s critics, and some have voiced concerns that the tribe would expand its highly-successful gaming operations from the existing reservation land over to Camp 4.

The agreement's details were revealed last week but still have to be approved by both the tribe and the Board of Supervisors, but we don’t see any reason why both parties should move away from the agreement at this point. Both sides had to give up a little, but both sides also gained a little.

Some of the tribe’s harshest critics are not appeased, so the battle will continue.

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