SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Band of Chumash Indians are moving forward with its plan to develop 1,400 acres of land in the Santa Ynez Valley despite the outcry from valley residents.
Chumash leaders wanted to begin talks with the county about annexing private land that they own to their reservation. But the idea of a fee-to-trust process packed the board room with angry residents.
"I'm mean really when we get down and we peel back the onion, this is about money. There's no question about it. So we need to think really long and really hard about how we do this," said Greg Schipper, a Santa Ynez resident.
"We have mutual respect for each other and I think any of our ancestors that came to the Santa Ynez Valley, as far back as the bloodlines go, would agree that we need to preserve the nature of the Santa Ynez Valley. And what this issue is boiled down to is an issue of greed," said Justin Tevis, a third generation valley resident.
Thirty-nine people spoke out about the Chumash plans. Even more were sitting in the hearing room.
"I'm here from a very local perspective in that I live 200 yards from Camp 4 and I picked that area specifically, it's probably one of the most pristine areas of the valley," said a resident.
Camp 4 is the 1,400 acre property off Highway 154. The Chumash purchased it from Fess Parker.
Earlier plans called for a golf course, hotel and possibly a casino. But now, the Chumash leader said it's just for housing.
"There's really no other plans. For the survival of the tribe, for the survival of any tribe, not just ours, there needs to be a landmass," said Vincent Armenta, the tribal chairman.
The tribe has already applied for the annexation process through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They requested to sit down and talk with the Board of Supervisors back in 2011 but that hasn't happened.
"If you have concerns over the 1,400 acres and you're not in a dialogue, then how do you make your concerns known?" said Andy Caldwell, the executive director of the Coalition of Labor Agriculture & Business.
None of the board members like the fee-to-trust plan, which would eliminate taxes from being collected on the property. However, Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Steve Lavagnino said they would be open to talking with the tribe.
"I think it's very poor government to ignore a situation," said Lavagnino.
In a 3-2 vote, the supervisors decided to have the Chumash speak with the Planning and Development Department instead of the talks the tribe wanted about annexation.
"We don't have a problem with doing that. That wasn't the issue on the table today. Unfortunately it was turned to that," said Armenta.
Armenta said the tribe would not contact the department but instead continue with their plans. He said the county should be getting a notification about their fee-to-trust application soon and then it will have 30 days to respond.