For nothing actually happening quite yet at Camp 4 — the 1,390-acre Santa Ynez property sitting on the northeast corner of Highways 154 and 246 and owned by the Chumash Indians — there sure is a lot happening.
A very well-attended town hall meeting on the subject sponsored by Santa Ynez Concerned Citizens jammed the Solvang Veterans Hall Friday evening. The previous day the Chumash had hosted a media get-together at the Camp 4 property, which the tribe had bought from Fess Parker in April 2010, explaining their intention of using the land to build housing. The housing would address the “dire overcrowding” at the tribe’s current 137-acre reservation, Chumash Chairman Vincent Armenta told the group, and the sole intent for the purchase of the property would be to place housing on approximately 300 acres of Camp 4, similar to the type of usage next to that portion of the property.
Their explanation, however, has not quelled the concern of critics, many of whom are convinced the tribe is looking to build a second casino on the property. Exhibit A: the front page of Nancy Crawford-Hall’s Santa Ynez Valley Journal, which displayed a large photo of the sprawling Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut — the biggest casino resort complex in the United States — with the headline “Would you want this in the Valley?” Armenta, however, said that opponents of the tribe keep trying to “incite panic,” and that another casino wouldn’t make economic sense so close to their current one.
The Camp 4 property is currently zoned Ag II-100, meaning parcels on the property must be a minimum of 100 acres. Currently there are four parcels on the property. The Chumash could apply for a maximum of 13 different parcels of 100 acres or larger. But the plan is to place the land into Federal Trust, making it part of the Chumash Reservation.
The Chumash have approached Representative Elton Gallegly, asking him to introduce legislation to take the land out of the county’s jurisdiction and into federal trust (AKA, fee-to-trust), where there are no restrictions on density or development. But a spokesperson for Gallegly, who will no longer be the representative for the area once the newly formed congressional districts take shape, reemphasized Tuesday the congressmember’s position that there must be support for such a move. “The congressman believes in local control and it must have the support of the Board of Supervisors and the Solvang City Council before he would consider legislation,” said Gallegly communications director Thomas Pfeifer.
This is where the Chumash might have a problem. As it sits right now, it’s not clear the Chumash would have the votes at the Board of Supervisors level for Gallegly to act with the board’s support. The supes last month voted 3-2 to drop their protest of an alcohol expansion at the casino. But one of those votes in support of the Chumash, 5th District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, said he would not support legislation. “I just don’t like local land-use decisions taken away from local government,” Lavagnino said Tuesday. Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr, whose district includes the Santa Ynez Valley and who was one of the no votes on the alcohol-permit expansion, has expressed her strong opposition to an annexation of the land into the reservation through a fee-to-trust plan.
Camp 4 also happens to be at the center of another squabble unfolding in the valley, this one between the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association and a group of neighbors to the property opposed to the Vintners’ Association’s annual festival being held there. The association has applied for a land-use permit application at the site, County Planning and Development Director Glenn Russell said Tuesday, and county staff is in the early stages of analysis. If approved, the permit would be appealable to the County Planning Commission and then to the supervisors.
The proposed event, which this past year was held in Lompoc, would be a one-day, four-hour festival for roughly 3,000 people in April 2012. The neighbors opposed to the project said the event would be better off held in one of the more developed areas in the Santa Ynez area, like Los Olivos, Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, or Solvang.