By Bill Krauch
As former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
Concerning Camp 4 and the pending legislation that solely benefits the Chumash at the expense of Santa Ynez Valley residents and county taxpayers, there is confusion between facts and opinion.
Let’s set the record straight.
It is a fact that trust status for Camp 4 means the tribe can evade all local zoning and development regulations. The Chumash can develop and build whatever they like regardless of the many negative impacts to surrounding non-tribal property owners.
Trust status for the Chumash means the land, and anything developed on it, is tax-exempt yet entitled to have all the public services and use all the infrastructure for which non-Indian taxpayers are obligated to pay. In other words, non-tribal taxpayers are subsidizing the further enrichment of the Chumash.
A bill is pending in Congress that would ratify the last-minute action by the previous administration to approve the 138-person Santa Ynez Chumash Tribe’s application for the Camp 4 fee-to-trust land acquisition.
This bill references the agreement between the Chumash and Santa Barbara County that purportedly constrains the use of Camp 4 by the tribe. However, this deal falls short in many respects. Let me just highlight a couple.
- The Agreement expires in 2040, after which the tribe will be allowed to do anything it wants on Camp 4, including building a massive amount of commercial development as it proposed in March 2016 and possibly another casino.
- The agreement calls for the tribe to pay a small amount to the county to cover potential fiscal impacts of development on Camp 4. The $178,500 that the tribe will pay is wholly inadequate and is not even adjusted for inflation annually. Consequently, taxpayers will be on the hook to pay these costs.
- The Chumash/Santa Barbara County agreement allows the tribe to build a large-scale community center on Camp 4 of over 12,000 square feet, with 250 parking spaces, that could host 100 events a year.
- The agreement does not specifically prohibit the exporting of groundwater from Camp 4. Rather it references the mention of this issue in a federal environmental analysis that the county previously challenged in federal court as wholly inadequate.
- The agreement does not address the fact that as trust land all the properties adjacent to Camp 4 also become eligible to be placed into trust for the exclusive benefit of the Chumash. Once that happens, tribal gambling can occur on this adjacent land, and it will be exempt from all of the county laws, development rules and general plans to which everyone else is required to comply.
Going forward, regarding its “partnership” with the county, it is important to note that notwithstanding the fact that the tribe’s actions impact all residents, only the less than 150 members can vote for the Chumash tribal leadership. Its members can vote for all of the county and state government representatives in all elections.
The tribe can also operate in complete secrecy, not having to comply with government transparency laws as state and local governments are required to do.
All of this effort regarding Camp 4 is to address the tribe’s apparent critical need to provide housing and a community center for its members. Let’s be clear, if addressing housing and community center needs was the priority, as the tribe says they are, they would have already been able to do that with strong community support and tribal members would already be living in this new housing and using their new community center.
However, it is important to remember that at a March 2016 county meeting, the tribe presented a plan for massive commercial and residential development on Camp 4 and the 369 acre “Triangle” property it purchased in 2015. This proposed development would completely change the character of the Santa Ynez Valley and result in higher taxes for residents (which, as noted previously, the tribe would be exempt from paying.)
The Camp 4 issue is not about housing or community facilities – it is about further enriching the Chumash at the expense of the Santa Ynez Valley and its residents.
Valley resident Bill Krauch is chairman of the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition.