June 20, 2024
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Showdown looms as controversial Chumash land trust bill advances


Alex Kacik

Alex Kacik

The Santa Ynez Chumash Indians can move forward with plans to build 143 single-family homes for tribal members, per a U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources vote.

The committee voted 29-1 to pass HR 1157, which would allow the Chumash to take 1,390 acres in Santa Ynez known as Camp 4 into federal trust under the tribe’s sovereign territory.

U.S. Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, was the lone dissenter and argued the issue should be resolved locally. Santa Barbara County officials have expressed similar perspectives.

“This matter should not be addressed through legislation in Washington, D.C.,” Santa Barbara County Supervisor Doreen Farr said.

The Chumash have been negotiating with the county over the Camp 4 land since 2011. If the bill passes the House and Senate and is signed into law, the land would be removed from county tax rolls and oversight.

The tribe plans to build the homes on the acreage as well as designated open space and vineyards. The $179 million project would have a projected $80 million to $100 million annual impact, according to data from Mark Schniepp, the director of the California Economic Forecast, presented at November’s Economic Action Summit in Santa Maria.

About half of the tribe’s members live off of the reservation, said Chairman Kenneth Kahn, who took over for Vincent Armenta after he stepped down in March to pursue culinary school.

“The reservation has always been very small. A lot of our members don’t have access (to housing on the reservation),” Kahn told the Business Times. “The 140 homes should provide for us for the next 20, 30 or 40 years.”

The Chumash paid $40 million to the late Fess Parker for Camp 4 in 2010 and shortly after began the process of placing the land into trust.

In July 2013, the tribe filed a federal trust application with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In October 2013, federal legislation (HR 1133) was introduced to take land into trust and it was reintroduced to Congress in February 2015 as HR 1157. Kahn said if it wasn’t for HR 1157, the county wouldn’t have sat down with the tribe to negotiate.

The bill prohibits gambling on the site but does not include other development restrictions, which has drawn concern from county officials and local residents.

The county estimated that it would lose up to $311 million in tax revenue over 50 years.

The committee vote was an historic moment for the tribe, Kahn said.

“The housing project is the one we set out to build and what the tribe needs to sustain a healthy community,” he said.

Ventura County property sold

Michael David & Co. Commercial Real Estate Services of Oxnard recently coordinated two transactions totaling more than $3 million.

Sino Management LLC sold the 14,000-square-foot retail property at 360 W. Esplanade Drive in Oxnard to Elliot Megdal & Associates for $2.1 million. Megdal plans to redevelop the property partially occupied by Royal Business Bank and the retailer Master Bedroom.

A private investor purchased a 5,000-square-foot office building at 2437 Grand Ave. in Ventura for $940,000. It was previously owned by ME Gisler LLC. The investor aims to update the property and relocate his Ventura electrical contracting business, according to Michael David & Co.

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.