The Honourable Don Young
House of Representatives
Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs
1337 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
29th June 2015
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:
I am writing in relation to HR 2538, legislation providing for the Lytton Rancheria Tribe to have land they have acquired be put into federal trust.
My wife and I purchased our property on Eastside Road, now given an address on Flora Marie Lane, eight years ago. We were attracted to the natural beauty of the area and planned for this to be the house we retired to and enjoyed for hopefully a long period of time.
The property we acquired was uninhabitable. We have spent a lot of time and, for us, quite a lot of money renovating the home to provide suitable housing for us and our family. The work on the house has not been without challenges; the zoning and other requirements of the County are sometimes time consuming and expensive to comply with. Nevertheless we respected the process and were happy to comply in order to do our part in preserving the unique qualities of the environment we live in.
As you might imagine therefore we find it difficult to comprehend how the elected representatives in the County of Sonoma and City of Windsor have been negotiating in secret with the Tribe a Memorandum of Agreement which all of our neighbours and many of the residents of the City of Windsor believe can destroy the goals which we thought were shared for the future of the environment here.
The lack of the transparency of these negotiations is troubling in an age where the actions of elected bodies are expected to be open to those that they represent.
As I understand it, many residents are sympathetic to the Lytton Rancheria being able to establish a permanent home, where they can live and function as a community. However, there is significant concern that this legitimate goal is being cynically exploited by them to take into trust huge areas of in many cases non-contiguous property for purposes which would be hugely detrimental to the environment we all live in and not needed for housing or community purposes. The Tribe is a small number of people (circa 220 I believe) who derive a huge income from their existing San Pablo casino interests. This is obvious given the amount of money ($47 million +) already spent on assembling over 500 acres of land, with more land being acquired all the time. Given the size and wealth of the Tribe the plans they have advanced, on economic diversity grounds, for a huge winery and a 200 room resort, with a vast and negative impact on their neighbours, seems exploitive of the bargaining power they seem to have established with the County of Sonoma and City of Windsor.
Given the severity of the drought position in California, I am surprised that the relevant authorities are prepared to allow any new areas to be planted with vines, exacerbating an already dire situation. The first things you see when you drive into the City of Windsor are prominent signs, advising residents and visitors of the drought. To read that the County of Sonoma and City of Windsor are prepared to co-operate in the development of a hugely water consuming 200 room luxury resort really beggars belief. Are we all operating with the same information?
Much is made of the intent of the Tribe to be mindful of certain aspects of code and zoning restrictions. However many of these commitments, including the much trumpeted prohibition on gaming, are only effective for the 22 year life of the Agreement signed by the County and Lytton Rancheria. I know that others have drawn your attention to the fact that what is being proposed now by the Tribe is at variance with undertakings and statements made in past years. As you can imagine therefore, there is considerable scepticism about their adherence to the principles of the Agreement, certainly past the 22 year point. I think most would expect at that point that if there is a luxury resort in Windsor, at that point a casino will be added.
In conclusion we would request that rather than rubber stamping an agreement, negotiated in secret, which has such enormous implications for our community, that the discussions with Lytton Rancheria are re-opened. The views of the people most affected can then be heard and hopefully acted upon in order that something can be agreed which has legitimacy and is sustainable in the long term. The Lytton Rancheria has significant financial resources, more than can possibly be needed to achieve their goal of housing and community facilities. If they would comply with all the code and zoning rules that apply to others this would provide a basis for a harmonious long term place in the future of the community.
Ian and Dundee Butcher
1900 Flora Marie Lane