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Lytton Pomos shelve ballot measure, fueling concerns over development plans 

The Lytton Band of Pomo Indians this week began clearing ground and demolishing buildings to pave the way for their controversial Windsor tribal housing project, even though the tribe has yet to obtain federal approval for a reservation.
A tribal spokesman said they are confident the government will sanction their proposed homeland and they want to move as quickly as possible to begin construction on their $180 million project on the heavily wooded site they own on Windsor’s western boundary.
At the same time, the Lytton Pomos are delaying plans to seek voter approval to hook up to town utilities, and say it is just as likely they will drill wells and build their own sewer plant on property they own behind a residential subdivision.
Windsor officials expressed concern about the potential shift in the tribe’s plans for obtaining sewer and water. For the past five years, the tribe has been moving toward asking Windsor voters to approve a ballot measure that would extend town utilities to their project in exchange for a “community benefit” the Lyttons would provide — building a long-sought swimming complex for the town.
Read more: Lytton Pomos shelve ballot measure, fueling concerns over development plans | The Press Democrat

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Huffman adds new barriers to casino in Lytton bill

A congressional bill that provides protection against the prospect of another Indian casino in Sonoma County could be on its way to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, after its author expanded the prohibition on gaming.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said Friday that his bill creating a homeland for the Lytton Pomo tribe adjacent to Windsor would provide “bulletproof” protection against gaming, if it passes.
He said it not only mirrors Sonoma County’s agreement with the tribe not to build a casino anywhere in the county for 22 years, but includes an additional permanent prohibition against gaming north of Highway 12, or essentially from Santa Rosa to the Mendocino County line.
Huffman’s bill, supported by the tribe and county officials, won unanimous approval last week from the House Natural Resources Committee, the step before a possible vote by the full House of Representatives.
Read more at: Huffman adds new barriers to casino in Lytton | The Press Democrat

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Lytton Rancheria development outside Windsor stokes big land-use dispute

A tribe’s plan to build housing for its members on the outskirts of Windsor while also potentially adding a 200-room hotel and a large winery has generated one of the biggest land-use disputes in the young town’s history.
The 270-member Lytton Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians wants to establish a home base, something it has not had since the tribe’s 50-acre rancheria north of Healdsburg was illegally terminated by the federal government in 1958. In the past dozen years, it has used revenues from its East Bay casino to buy up an ever-larger swath of land southwest of Windsor, off Windsor River, Starr and Eastside roads.
That’s where the tribe could build more than 360 homes and a community center on just over 500 acres it hopes to take into federal trust through legislation carried by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. It would add the hotel and a 200,000-case winery if given approval under a future federal environmental review.
A separate deal negotiated with Sonoma County would prohibit a new casino on the land while allowing for the prospect of the tribe’s more than doubling the amount of property it holds in trust — to roughly 1,300 acres — making an even bigger part of Windsor’s outskirts exempt from local land-use restrictions.
Lytton tribal officials say their intent is to create a community for themselves and expand their economic ventures beyond gambling.
Creation of a homeland will allow the tribe to continue to govern itself and “to provide for tribal generations to come,” Tribal Chair Marjie Mejia testified in a congressional subcommittee hearing in June.
But project opponents have decried the increasing scope and potential impact of the development plans, which they note would require the destruction of 1,500 trees. The additional commercial development could deplete local water supplies and bring a huge influx of people and cars to the rural area, opponents say.
Read more at: Lytton Rancheria development outside Windsor stokes big land-use | The Press Democrat

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Rep. Jared Huffman introduces bill to take land into trust for Lytton Rancheria

Rep. Jared Huffman introduced a bill this week to take land near Windsor into federal trust for housing and other purposes — but not a casino — as part of the Lytton Rancheria reservation.
The bill, introduced Thursday, would allow the Pomo tribe to return to a communal homeland about 10 miles from their original reservation north of Healdsburg. No gaming will be conducted on the lands to be taken into trust by the federal government, according to Huffman’s office.
In an interview Friday, he said the legislation will give the tribe, the county, and the town of Windsor a measure of certainty over what can be built and how the housing impacts will be offset. He said it also provides a guarantee that a casino will not be developed on the property, an outcome that would not be certain if the tribe sought the alternate route of getting the land into trust through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“An Act of Congress has advantages. It gives everyone control over the outcome,” Huffman said.
The Lytton Rancheria lost its homeland north of Healdsburg in 1958 when it was terminated by the federal government. That termination was later found to be unlawful, and in 1991 the tribe was restored to federally recognized status.
A decade later, through legislation sponsored by former East Bay Congressman George Miller, the Lyttons took over an old cardroom and began operating the San Pablo Casino, generating profits that allowed the tribe to buy up land around Windsor for an intended homeland for its 270 members.
The Lyttons want to build 147 homes on 124 acres south of Windsor River Road, along with a community center, roundhouse and retreat.
Initial strong opposition from the county and Windsor officials, along with skepticism that the tribe might be pursuing another casino, eventually softened with a consensus that the tribe was likely to get approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Read more at: Rep. Jared Huffman introduces bill to take land | The Press Democrat

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County, Lytton tribe sign agreement

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors signed an agreement on Tuesday with the Lytton Rancheria of California that supports a tribal housing project west of Windsor and outlines parameters around the development.
The 124-acres of land owned by the Lytton Band of Pomo is slated for 147 housing units and, a community building, roundhouse and, in the future, may include a winery and resort.
County officials said that agreeing to the terms before the land is taken into trust would help ensure best management practices when the county no longer has control. The tribe agreed to $6.1 million in mitigation payments for impacts to roads, administrative costs, woodlands and parks surrounding the Windsor River Road property.
“This is something that was in no way spelled out before. Any kind of work that they do on the location now has to fit county code and general plan reviews. We have had examples around the country where a tribe has moved their lands into trust and then there is no interaction whatsoever, it annexes out of the jurisdiction of the county and then you have no way to deal with impacts,” Supervisor James Gore said.
The memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the county and the representatives of the tribe outlines the county’s relationship with the tribe and the importance of coming to an agreement that addresses land use, environmental impacts and their mutual goals.
“This is a big deal, let’s be honest, this is a very big deal. We talk about this as a memorandum agreement but it is also important to realize who has authority over what when we get into discussions with the county…the tribe has certain rights to take legally owned land into trust and govern that land outside of the local jurisdiction and governments,” Gore said.
Currently the tribe is in the processes of transferring the land out of fee-based property status and into a federal trust. Typically, once the land is taken into trust, no property taxes are paid and local zoning laws no longer apply. Through this agreement, the tribe agrees to develop lands consistent with Windsor’s General Plan and the County General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.
Read more at: County, Lytton tribe sign agreement – The Windsor Times: News