Chumash Land Decision Stands

County Not Appealing Fee-to-Trust Move

The county will not appeal a decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to bring a 6.9-acre plot of Santa Ynez Valley land into federal trust. A sharp line of division split the hundreds of people who packed the boardroom Tuesday, as the supervisors heard pleas from both Chumash tribal members who asked the board for respect and opponents of the tribe who wanted the county to formally appeal the BIA decision.

Many people expressed concern that the Chumash ​— ​who intend to build a museum and tribal center on the property, which is across Highway 246 from the Chumash Casino ​— ​would be using the approval as the “camel’s nose under the tent to expand gambling,” as Solvang Mayor Jim Richardson put it. But tribal members took umbrage with that characterization. “Is it a casino?” asked Sam Cohen, Chumash government affairs and legal officer. “No, it’s a museum.”

Chumash tribal chair Vincent Armenta
Click to enlarge photo

len wood/santa maria times

Chumash tribal chair Vincent Armenta

Because of the BIA decision, the land would become part of the Chumash reservation, taking it out from under local land-use rules. The move also means the county collects no property tax from the site. County staff said the Chumash currently pay $44,000 in property taxes, a number that would turn into $64,000 in 2032. If the area were developed, the property tax would increase to $271,000, and by 2032 that would be bumped to $395,000.

The Chumash first applied for the fee-to-trust process in 2000. The tribe is seeking a similar process for a 5.8-acre plot of land immediately next to this property. Ultimately, the supervisors were as split as the attendees, with a 3-2 vote in favor of not appealing the federal decision. Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr ​— ​whose district contains the reservation ​— ​and 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf were on the losing end of the vote.

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