With their own blessing, Chumash leadership said Tuesday that plans to expand the existing resort to include a 12-story hotel wing and more gaming space — among other features — will move forward as planned, with construction pegged to start next month and end in 2016. This week’s announcement — accompanied by a 254-page document comprising the tribe’s response to the 29 comments it received from various government agencies and Santa Ynez Valley residents on its controversial plans — came on the heels of a letter sent last week from Chairman Vincent Armenta to County CEO Mona Miyasato. In a short rebuke, Armenta said the county’s array of mitigation requests “seems to reflect a misunderstanding of the role of the county in this process. The county is not the lead agency; the tribe is.”
Still, the tribe made concessions to some county requests. While the tribe sidestepped County Fire’s petition for the Chumash to foot the $1.7 million bill for a fire engine that could hold a 100-foot ladder — the 12-story tower will stand 136 feet tall — by saying “the reality of fire safety in multi-story buildings has moved away from ladder trucks to building design,” the tribe indicated it would be willing to pay $600,000 a year for one-and-a-half full-time firefighter positions near the reservation plus a full-time paramedic and an on-reservation or private tribal ambulance. Ensuring that County Fire has full access to the property, including during construction, will also be on the tribe’s to-do list, as well as forking over $480,000 every year to partially cover the costs for one dedicated Sheriff’s deputy to patrol the grounds.
They considered “various renditions” of a smaller hotel expansion, Chumash leaders wrote, but decided against that route, as it would mean demolition and relocation of housing; the tribe has long said it wants to build additional units on the contentious Camp 4 property. The aesthetics of the 12-story tower, made clearer in new artist’s renderings, they said, will mesh with the existing hotel. Addressing worries from many over what the expansion will mean for water use — especially during a drought — the tribe pledged to up its use of recycled water.
Only union workers will be hired for construction, Armenta said, anticipating about 350 construction positions and 250 new permanent jobs. Construction is good to go, a spokesperson for the Office of the Governor said: “We are not aware of any actions by the tribe that constitute a breach of their compact obligations. As long as the tribe is complying with the terms of the compact it signed with the state in 1999, there is nothing from the state perspective that would delay its project.”