Alaska Representative Don Young — who had a conversation in recent months with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians about Camp 4, the 1,400-acre valley property the tribe is attempting to bring into their reservation via federal legislation — will not be the one to introduce such legislation, his spokesperson said in an email Thursday.
The statement, in response to an inquiry made by The Santa Barbara Independent, put to rest questions about the potential involvement of Young — a Republican who is the chairman of the Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee. Letters of opposition from POLO (Preservation of Los Olivos) and 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr brought to light the fact the tribe had contacted Young.
Tribal officials have said they want to build 143 homes on the property, which was purchased from Fess Parker in 2009. Because of the way it is currently zoned and because of the Community Plan in place for the valley, it is unlikely the Chumash would ever build that many homes. But if taken into trust through legislation, the land would then no longer be subject to local land use regulations, and the Chumash could more easily build on the land. The move would also take the land — which is not contiguous with other parts of the reservation — out of the county’s property tax rolls.
Because of his committee position, Young has meetings with Indian tribes from across the country, spokesman Luke Miller said, and many of them have to do with acquiring land in trust.
After meeting with the Chumash, Miller said, Young consulted with Rep. Elton Gallegly, whose district currently includes Camp 4. Gallegly has said he believes in local control and that the fee-to-trust plan must have the support of the Board of Supervisors and the Solvang City Council before he would consider legislation.
Miller said Young also received a letter from Farr and “appreciates her comments.” Last month, Farr sent Young a letter similar to one she sent to Gallegly, explaining that she would like to see the land stay under local control.
Young’s statement is just the most recent buzz around the property, which the tribe purchased from Fess Parker’s estate in 2009.
Earlier this month, the Chumash were in front of the Santa Maria City Council with a presentation on how the proposed project would be economically beneficial to the region. Mark Schniepp, the executive director of the California Economic Forecast, outlined an analysis done by his outfit. The analysis showed the project could cost between $132 million and $179 million depending on the types of houses used.
Noting the loss of jobs experienced in the North County over the last four-and-a-half years, the forecast predicts that between 100 and 360 construction jobs in the county will be created each year during the peak years and that between 350 and 425 total jobs in the county will be created during the peak years.
Total sales will rise by $18 million, the report notes, which will increase the amount of money through taxes the county gets. “The project will create a significant employment impact to a Santa Barbara County construction industry that has downsized substantially in recent years,” the report states.
Meanwhile, a countywide coalition — called Camp 4 Coalition for Good Governance, which includes the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance, the Santa Barbara County Action Network, the Montecito Association, and the Citizens Planning Association — released its own analysis, taking a similar but stronger stance to Farr, citing a need for orderly development and noting potential economic impacts should the property be taken from the tax rolls.
“The Coalition opposes Fee-to-Trust/Annexation of the Camp 4 property due to the loss of local control and adverse economic and environmental impacts,” a document from the Coalition said. “Good governance relies upon local government and elected officials, adopted policy and comprehensive planning, to balance the needs of the community and plan for the future.”
Still, a spokesperson for the tribe said that, while there was no news at this point, the tribe was “still in the process of working toward fee-to-trust legislation.”