With little fanfare, Windsor Unified School District board members unanimously agreed Tuesday to accept a $1 million gift from the Indian tribe planning to build a large housing project on the outskirts of town.
Even though the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians’ housing is estimated to bring more than 100 students, the tribe is not required to pay the typical development fees and school impact fees of a new subdivision.
That’s because the site would be considered Indian land, or sovereign territory, once the Bureau of Indian Affairs gives final approval to put the 124 acres into federal trust on behalf of the tribe.
School trustee Katy Dillwood described the donation as “so graciously given as a good neighbor. We’re very appreciative of that gift.”
School Board President Sandra Dobbins called it “a good agreement” and “very much a collaboration.”
In exchange for the money, the school district agreed not to actively oppose or challenge the tribe’s plan to build its 147 homes, a community center and roundhouse west of town, off Windsor River Road.
“The tribe, once again, is trying to be a good community partner,” Larry Stidham, the attorney and spokesman for the Lytton Rancheria said prior to the meeting. “We want to help the schools, much like we did the fire district.”
The tribe began making payments to the Windsor Fire Protection District several years ago, which would total more than $1 million over a decade and even top $2 million if the tribe’s project gets sewer and water service from the town instead of having to develop its own wells and wastewater facility.
The Lytton Band has been awaiting approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to proceed with its housing project, much of it on densely wooded land that would require the clearing of 1,700 oak trees.
The 270-member tribe began buying up land a dozen years ago on the periphery of Windsor with proceeds from its lucrative San Pablo Casino in the East Bay.
Tribal members, who at one time were part of the Lytton Rancheria near Healdsburg before it was dissolved by the government, say they want to re-establish a homeland in Sonoma County.
Tribal spokesmen have steadfastly insisted they have no plans to build another casino in Windsor.
Two years ago, the housing project cleared a major hurdle after the Bureau of Indian Affairs determined it will have no significant environmental impact.
The bureau issued its findings over the objections of Sonoma County, Windsor and state officials, who urged a more complete environmental study.
The tribe is still awaiting “fee-to-trust” approval from the BIA, allowing the project to proceed.
“Eventually this is going to happen. I can’t put a time frame on it,” Stidham said Tuesday.
The tribe is apparently so confident its project is going to get a green light from federal regulators, that it has agreed to give the school district the $1 million within 60 days.
School trustees have yet to decide how the money will be spent other than for “capital improvement” of facilities.
Stidham said the agreement still has to go back to the tribal council to be reviewed and signed, which will likely be by the end of the month.
You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.