April 6, 2024
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Chumash bill to annex land stalls, to be reintroduced


The federal legislation that would’ve expanded the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians’ reservation did not move through Congress, but the tribe plans to submit a similar bill in the next session.

The tribe aims to build 143 houses for its tribal members on 1,390 acres in Santa Ynez known as Camp 4. Yet, Congress did not vote on HR 1157, which would’ve allowed the Chumash to take Camp 4 into federal trust under the tribe’s sovereign territory. The House Committee on Natural Resources voted 29-1 to pass the bill in July.

The Chumash are currently going through two legislative routes to annex the land and put it into a trust, which would remove it from county tax rolls and planning oversight. The county estimated that it would lose up to $311 million in tax revenue over 50 years.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the tribe’s fee-to-trust application in late 2014 but it has yet to be finalized because it is currently tied up in appeals. If the next iteration of HR 1157, which is yet to be determined, is passed, it would render the BIA process moot.

The bill would prohibit gambling on the site but does not include other development restrictions, which has drawn concern from county officials and local residents. The $179 million project would have a projected $80 million to $100 million annual impact, officials estimate. It is slated to begin in 2022.

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.

“HR 1157 has been our most successful version of the legislation,” said Chumash Chairman Kenneth Kahn, who took over for Vincent Armenta this year. “It has opened up a dialogue between the tribe and the county. We look forward to continuing the partnership and communication we built as we move to the next Congressional session.”

• Contact Alex Kacik at akacik@pacbiztimes.com.