An agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians was approved Tuesday by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to resolve some of the issues involved in the Camp 4 property being taken into federal trust.
In a 4-1 vote, with 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam dissenting, the board approved the pact that establishes land uses, outlines environmental impact mitigation, requires compliance with state safety and building codes and sets an amount of compensation for services provided by the county.
The agreement also includes a limited waiver of liability by the tribe, requires the county to drop litigation against an existing federal fee-to-trust action and support House Resolution 1491 with amendments that include the provisions of the agreement and sets Dec. 31, 2040, for its expiration.
Supervisors reached the decision at the end of a nearly five-hour hearing that included three hours of public comments, the majority of which — about 32 — favored approval. About 23 speakers opposed the agreement, and a few said they were neither for nor against.
At the outset, 3rd District Supervisor and Chairman Joan Hartmann, who represents the Santa Ynez Valley and served on the ad hoc subcommittee that crafted the agreement, explained why there was an urgency to take action on it, something that had been questioned by the public over the course of several meetings.
Hartmann said if Congress approved HR 1491, it would eliminate any opportunity for local government to be involved in the development of Camp 4.
That bill would affirm the federal decision to take Camp 4 into trust for the Chumash, which would remove the 1,433 acres of land the tribe owns along Highway 154 from state and local jurisdiction and the tax rolls.
With the bill now out of committee, it could be brought to a vote at any time, Hartmann said, but the author and sponsors agreed to hold it until after the supervisors’ Oct. 31 special meeting.
Four supervisors supported the agreement, while admitting it is imperfect, but Adam said he couldn’t support it for several reasons.
“I think we could have done better,” he said, noting it appeared the county would provide a full level of service to the property for $178,000 a year — the sum the tribe agreed to pay as compensation — which would not recover 100 percent of the cost.
“I just think it’s a bad deal for us, and they didn’t even put in an inflation component,” he said, claiming the $178,000 would be worth about $93,000 by the end of the agreement.
“So what does the county get?” he asked. “A buffer zone and $178,000. What does the tribe get? Unlimited services at no extra cost.”
Adam also said he believes the agreement should extend as long as the tribe has a gaming agreement with the state.
Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf supported the agreement reluctantly.
“This was a very difficult decision to come to, mainly because it called into question many of the values I’ve stood for,” Wolf said, particularly removing so much land from agricultural use.
But she noted it was the first time she had seen two former supervisors — Gail Marshall and Doreen Farr — come forward to express support for something.
“I’m not happy with this, but I think this is the right step to take,” she said.
Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino said he liked the setback required along Highway 154 and the fact that gaming is not allowed, per both the agreement and HR 1491, but he agreed with Adam regarding the compensation for lost revenue.
“We’re destined to incur all the impacts without any of the revenue,” Lavagnino said. But he added, “I’m glad we’ve come to this agreement.”
First District Supervisor Das Williams, who sat on the ad hoc submcommittee with Hartmann, said the agreement “has some good stuff in it,” giving the open space protection an A+ and the financial aspects a B+ or higher if the Chumash contributions to transportation issues are factored in.
“I think what we have is very good, especially in the context of being on the eve of total defeat,” Williams said. “We came to the conclusion this is really the best deal we could arrive at at this juncture.”
Hartmann said she doesn’t see the agreement as an ending but rather a beginning to a better relationship between the county and the Chumash.
“This is not about selling out the Valley,” she said. “I ask that we use this agreement as a starting point.”
Chumash Tribal Chairman Kenneth Kahn echoed those sentiments.
“We all share a heritage and pride in our Valley,” he said. “Through this process and agreement, I hope to build upon a position communication of government to government. … This is in the best interest of the citizens of the community and the tribe.”
Later, he said, “We’re trying to achieve collaboration, we’re trying to achieve a partnership. … We will continue as good neighbors in the future.”