We Are Windsor – Peg Champion Letter

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

June 30, 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 a resident of Windsor, California. Our home is very close to the more than 500-acre proposed development by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians. In late May, Rep. Jared Huffman submitted a bill to Congress that will move the land into federal trust, making it a sovereign nation and exempting it from local zoning regulations. I am very strongly opposed to this bill for these five reasons:

1. No Citizen Input
The Windsor Town Council has been negotiating an agreement with the Lytton Indians behind closed doors. County supervisors did the same thing before they issued their agreement. There have been no public hearings in which local residents could voice their concerns. The citizens who are going to be impacted, like me, have not been consulted and haven’t had a chance to weigh in on this important issue.

The Lytton Band has asked the Town of Windsor to provide water and sewer services to the site. However, the lands lie outside the urban growth boundary set by the Town, and land-use enactments prohibit the supply of services outside this boundary. The Town and the Lytton Band plan to hold an election to repeal these restrictions and include the Lytton lands within the Town’s urban growth boundary. Furthermore, if the Town refuses their request, the Band has threatened to construct wastewater treatment facilities, including an effluent pond and spray fields next to an existing dense housing development.

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.

2. Severe Drought Considerations
As you are aware, there is a severe drought here in California. The Lytton Project would deplete extremely limited water resources during a drought. Our home is on a well. Currently there is no “spare water” in our area, whether from the Town or from groundwater. The Town of Windsor and the State of California both have mandatory water restrictions in place. A large project with 361 homes, a 200-room resort, more than 300 acres of vines and a 200,000-case winery will all tax scare water resources; it is inconsistent with current land use rules and should not go forward. In addition, a current Environmental Impact Report must be conducted and shared with all involved parties, before moving forward.

3. An Increasing Amount of Land Not Under State Jurisdiction
In 2002, the Lytton Band originally announced plans to have 50 acres taken into trust. In April 2009, the Lytton Band 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 124 acres, all for the residential project. HR 2538 now applies to 511 acres, almost a square mile. It no longer is just to “provide housing for tribal members,” but now includes at least another 90 surplus units of housing, a 200-room resort, more than 300 acres of vineyards and a 200,000-case winery. The Lytton Band would be exempt from state laws and county regulations regarding water conservation, farming, and wine production on these lands.

The Lytton Band 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 land in the area. The rules 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 (population 27,000+) and has been under state control as long as the state of California has existed. The Lytton Band bought this land on the open market only in recent years, and undoubtedly chose this area because it is so desirable. While we welcome them to the area, they should be subject to the same laws that have made it desirable.

4. Our Community Wants to Maintain its Rural Nature
This area is very rural – and we want to keep it that way. We don’t want to turn our rural areas into sprawling suburban tracts. The area also is part of an important ecosystem that should be preserved. The area includes an intact, self-sustaining oak woodland, including a remarkable amount of Blue Oak regeneration. The Lytton Band plans to cut down up to 1,500 or more heritage Blue Oak trees. These trees are native to the area and can be up to 300 years old. They are a precious resource and should not be destroyed on such a massive scale. The area also provides a full complement of species diversity and food sources, as well as habitat connectivity between the Coast Ranges and Maycamas Mountains. Construction of the planned development would destroy the continuous forest and this unique ecosystem.

5. Special Treatment
The Lytton Band says it wants to develop housing for its members. The Lytton Band comprises 270 members, including spouses and children. The Band currently owns five parcels, one within the Town and four within the Urban Growth Boundary, a total of 71 acres, on which they could develop 214 units. However, they are proposing to build 361 units, leaving 91 surplus units. The Band could supply housing for all 270 of its members without having lands taken into trust or violating current land use and zoning laws.

In addition, the plan creates a checkerboard of changing jurisdictions. The 511 acres are not contiguous. Rather, they are spread over an area two miles long and more than one mile wide. Neighbors on all sides of the checkerboard are affected, literally hundreds of homes and ranches.

H.R. 2538 would be a completely arbitrary Act of Congress. The decision to take the 500+ acres into a trust is arbitrary – the tribe has no connection to this land. Further, this land is adjacent to our homes and is important to our community. Many community members would be harmed by the trust and the land’s proposed use, which is completely antithetical to planned land use in our area.

Please do not approve proposed legislation H.R. 2538.

Respectfully submitted,
Peg Champion
1337 Woody Creek Lane
Windsor, CA 95492