PD Editorial: Betting on a compromise with the Pomos

The Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians has ambitious plans for a 277-acre tract on the outskirts of Petaluma.

Drawings show six ball fields, an indoor sports facility, about 40 townhouses and condominiums as well as a medical clinic, a gas station, a restaurant and a convenience store. Plans also include a wetlands mitigation bank along the Petaluma River.

The complex would provide housing for tribal members. It also could host youth baseball and soccer tournaments, providing surrounding communities with an economic boost from rapidly expanding travel ball programs.

Where tribal leaders see opportunity, however, some people see a potential threat.

The Dry Creek Pomos own River Rock Casino near Geyserville as well as their acreage on the east side of Highway 101 south of Petaluma. Their casino stands to lose some players when the Graton Rancheria opens its own casino outside Rohnert Park next month, and skeptics of the development plan fear the Dry Creek Pomos will instead build a second casino closer to Bay Area population centers.

"In the background is always the veiled threat of a casino," Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt told Staff Writer Clark Mason for a news account of the Dry Creek tribe's development plans.

Harvey Hopkins, the tribal chairman, told Mason that "it's not a benefit to Dry Creek at this point to leapfrog."

<i>At this point</i>. Those three words feed reservations about the development plan. Not because we think Hopkins is untrustworthy but because tribal leadership changes, circumstances change. Graton Rancheria leaders once said they didn't want a casino. They're now among those expressing public concerns about the Dry Creek Pomos' intentions.

But this need not be a standoff.

Development of the property is currently limited by a memorandum of understanding with Sonoma County — the land is in an unincorporated area — that prohibits the tribe from pursuing casino plans before 2016.

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