Petaluma leaders seek bulwark against Kastania-area casino

Petaluma city leaders are working to shore up federal opposition to a potential casino on 277 acres south of city limits, land owned by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians.

Councilman Mike Healy, an attorney who has done legal work on behalf of opponents of the Graton Rancheria's Rohnert Park casino, this week asked his fellow council members to sign a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, enlisting their help.

The Dry Creek Rancheria has submitted an application to the federal government to take the tribe's six parcels along Highway 101 near Kastania Road into trust. While that move is necessary for approval of gaming activity, tribe representatives have said their plans don't include a casino there.

Local officials have been briefed on the tribe's plans for a housing and public sports complex on the rolling hillside land between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River south of Shollenberger Park.

Dry Creek Chairman Harvey Hopkins couldn't be reached Tuesday for further details on the tribe's trust application. A decision from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs could take years.

The Dry Creek tribe operates River Rock Casino near Geyserville, but the planned November opening of Graton's Rohnert Park casino is expected to siphon off millions of dollars in River Rock's gambling profits.

The Petaluma-area location has widely been seen as an opportunity for the Dry Creek tribe to leapfrog Graton's casino to capture northbound customers.

The tribe has owned the Petaluma-area land since 2005, when it first submitted a trust application that included a casino. That application has since expired.

Healy said he wants to be able to trust assurances from the tribe that a casino isn't in the picture now.

But a draft of the letter highlights that potential, which is only possible if the property is taken into trust.

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