After years of contentious public and private negotiations, the County Board of Supervisors formalized on Tuesday an agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. The discussions have surrounded the Chumash’s 1,400-acre land known as Camp 4. The deal, in short, requires the Chumash to pay the county $178,500 annually and adhere to certain development restrictions when building homes and a tribal center. No gaming is allowed. The county would also drop its formal opposition to the tribe’s Bureau of Indian Affairs petition to annex Camp 4.
The agreement comes at a time when federal legislation — House Bill 1491 — that would immediately place Camp 4 in the tribe’s boundaries could be heard in Congress as early as next week. County Supervisor Joan Hartmann said that in the past three decades all similar federal legislation — 47 bills — has passed both houses. In addition, she said, Ryan Zinke, the interior secretary, has expressed support for Native American tribes. Hartmann acknowledged the concerns of Santa Ynez residents. “This is not about selling out the valley,” she said. “We don’t want the Santa Ynez Valley to turn into the San Fernando Valley.” She said she believes this is just the beginning of a cooperative relationship with the Chumash.
On Tuesday, the fourth floor of the County Administration Building was packed. Among those in the pews were former congressmember Lois Capps and former county supervisors Gail Marshall and Doreen Farr. They all supported the deal. “It’s a neighborhood issue. It’s land use,” said Capps, adding, “There is a momentum I want to attest to [in Congress] to address injustices perpetrated on our native people some years ago and some perhaps currently.”
The deal comes after years of animosity from neighbors. They, too, showed up in full force to oppose the deal. High-profile attorney Barry Cappello has threatened to sue the county, arguing the agreement violates the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan. He represents prominent valley resident Nancy Crawford-Hall, who previously spent $500,000 to try to remove Farr from office. But in the end, the county supervisors, excluding Peter Adam, were convinced the deal was the county’s best option. They voted 4-1 to approve the deal.
“We want the same quality of life that everyone in the Santa Ynez Valley shares,” said Chumash Chair Ken Kahn, adding that the deal is “just the beginning of what two governments can achieve when we sit down and have tough conversations.”