We Are Windsor – Darryl E. Laxo Letter

30 June 2015

The Honorable Don Young
House of Representatives
Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs
1337 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

RE: Testimony for the Record Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2538 June 17, 2015

Dear Chairman Young, Ranking Member Ruiz, and Members of the Subcommittee:

The Lytton Should Not Be Given Special Treatment: The Lytton should be subject to the exact same land use and zoning rules as everyone else. Those rules are meant to protect not just the land in question but all lands in the area. They protect the environment and maintain a quality of life consistent with the desires of the local community. This land is adjacent to the Town of Windsor with a population of over 27,000 and has been under state control as long as the state existed. The Lytton bought this land on the open market only in recent years, and undoubtedly chose this area because it is so desirable. We welcome them to the area but they should be subject to the same laws that made it so desirable.

The Community Wants to Maintain the Rural Nature of the Area: This area, though right outside the city, is very rural, and we want to keep it that way. We don’t want to turn our rural areas into sprawling suburban tracts.

Area Is Part of an Important Ecosystem Which Should Be Preserved. The site is comprised of an intact, self-sustaining oak woodland, including a remarkable amount of blue oak regeneration, that provides the full complement of ecosystem services, species diversity and food sources, and habitat connectivity between the coast ranges and Maycamas mountains. Construction of the planned development would destroy the continuous forest and the ecosystem.

The Lytton Plan to Cut down 1500 or More Heritage Blue Oak Trees. These trees are native to the area, and can be as old as 300 years. They are a precious resource and should not be destroyed on such a massive scale.

The Lytton Project Would Deplete Limited Water Resources During a Drought. Currently there is no spare water in the area, whether from the Town or from groundwater, and such a large project so inconsistent with current land use rules should not go forward.

The Lytton Don’t Need Special Treatment. The Lytton want to develop housing for their members. They have 270 members, including spouses and children but they are proposing to build 361 units, meaning 90 surplus units. These would all be on 195 of the acres, leaving the other 316 acres untouched. They currently own five parcels, one within the Town and four within the Urban Growth Boundary, totaling 71 acres, on which they likely could gain rights to develop 214 units. Thus, they likely could supply housing for all 270 members without needing to violate current land use and zoning laws. For these reasons, it is not clear why they need to have any lands taken into trust.

Congress Should Wait Until the Town Holds an Election on the Project. The Lytton have asked the Town to provide water and sewer services to the site, but the lands lie outside the urban growth boundary set by the Town, and land use enactments prohibit the supply of services outside the urban growth boundary. The Town and the Lytton have indicated plans to hold an election to repeal the restrictions and include the Lytton lands within the Town’s urban growth boundary and have threatened to construct wastewater treatment facilities, including an effluent pond and spray fields next to a dense housing development, if the Town refuses the request. If Congress takes the land into trust, it will deprive the Town of any effective choice. Instead, Congress should wait until the Town holds an election, and then evaluate the situation based on that vote.

The Amount of Land to be taken into Trust Keeps Increasing. In 2002, the Lytton announced plans to have 50 acres taken into trust. In April 2009, the Lytton submitted a written application to the BIA to have 92 acres of the subject land taken into trust. Apparently, the application was subsequently amended to include all 124 acres, all for the residential project. HR 2538 now applies to 511 acres. This now constitutes almost a square mile (640 acres). It no longer is just to provide housing for tribal members, but now includes at least another 90 surplus units of housing and over 300 acres of vineyards. The Lytton would not be required to follow state laws as to water conservation, farming, and wine production on the vineyard lands.

The Lytton Plan Creates a Checkerboard of Changing Jurisdictions. The 511 acres is not contiguous but is spread over an area 2 miles long and over 1 mile wide. Further, neighbors on all sides are affected, so it affects hundreds of homes and ranches spread throughout the area.

HR 2538 is Completely Arbitrary Act of Congress. The decision to take the 500 acres into trust for the Lytton would be completely arbitrary. The tribe has no connection to the land. Further, the land is adjacent to a Town, and many members of the general public would be harmed by taking the land into trust as the proposed use is completely antithetical to planned land use in the area.

Windsor and County Residents are Being Blindsided

Windsor residents are being steam rolled. The Windsor Town Council has been negotiating an agreement with the Lytton Indians all behind closed doors. County supervisors did the same thing before they came out with their agreement. The citizens who are going to be impacted have not been consulted and haven’t had a chance to weigh in on this important issue.

Respectfully Submitted,

Darryl E. Laxo
PO Box 1897
Windsor, CA 95492