Our firm represents Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO). About five years ago, we helped the organization and others create the Santa Ynez Community Plan to help pertect the Santa Ynez Valley from rampant, unchecked development. A lot has been written lately about the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ desire to build on its recently purchased 1,400 acres in Santa Ynez. What readers may not know is that Chumash representatives have recently sent a “Cooperative Agreement” letter to members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors requesting that the 1,400 acres be annexed to the Chumash’s already 135 acres in Santa Ynez. The agreement states that if the county board voices its support for the annexation to federal government officials in a fee-to-trust transfer, in return, the county will receive an annual yet-to-be-determined monetary payment from the tribe for the next eight years. While the stated intent by the tribe is to build housing on the land for tribal members, the agreement letter makes it clear that the tribe is under no obligation to build only housing and it may have “desires to expand Tribal housing opportunities and operate Tribal economic development projects.” It also goes on to say that, “proposed and future Tribal development are not County projects and not subject to the discretionary approval of the County.” And finally, “given the scope of the proposed Tribal housing and economic development projects, specific impacts are not always subject to precise measurement.” In other words, the tribe wants to build anything it wants on the 1,400 without county approval and without concern about the development’s impact to adjacent communities. This goes directly against the Santa Ynez Community Plan. On Sept. 6, we wrote a letter, on behalf of POLO, to county supervisors expressing our concerns. The letter laid out how agreeing to the tribes proposal would void the county’s ability to control land use and planning for the property and would result in the loss of millions of dollars of land value and tax dollars. What’s more, the county does not have the legal authority to sign the agreement with the tribe without first amending the Santa Ynez Community Plan. To do that, it must first hold public hearings and commission an EIR. The supervisors have not yet responded.
For copies of the Cooperative Agreement and our response, click below.