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Windsor could finally be getting a long-desired municipal swimming facility, courtesy of the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians, in exchange for the town extending water and sewer service to a planned tribal housing project.

Because the town’s utilities would be stretched beyond the urban growth boundary, Windsor voters would need to approve the tentative deal, which calls for the tribe to build an aquatic facility at Keiser Park and also stipulates that it would not pursue a casino in Windsor.

“This (the pool) is something the community has desired for many years even prior to incorporation (in 1992),” Town Manager Linda Kelly said Monday. “It would be a welcome addition to our recreational program and certainly to the high school as well.”

The 30-meter-long pool could be used by the Windsor High swim team, whose members now have to travel to surrounding communities to practice and compete.

In addition, the tribe would build a second recreational pool, restrooms and changing facility along with a community building and parking.

The basic outline of the deal comes after several years of talks between the tribe and Windsor officials, who originally were on record as opposing the tribe’s plan to build up to 147 housing units for its members on 124 acres off Windsor River Road.

Ever since the tribe began accumulating land along Windsor’s western border more than a decade ago, there has been lingering suspicion that it intended to build another casino in Windsor, beyond the San Pablo Casino it operates in the East Bay. The tribe has always denied any intent to pursue gambling in Windsor and now is willing to put that into a legally binding agreement.

“Once they (Windsor voters) are comfortable with the fact there won’t be a casino there, I think that alleviates a large part of the fear,” Larry Stidham, the tribe’s attorney and spokesman, said Monday.

The costs and design of the aquatic center are still being determined, but Stidham estimated it will cost between $7 million and $10 million.

The town six years ago completed a master plan for an aquatic facility with an Olympic-size pool at Keiser Park. But the prospect of trying to fund the ongoing operation and maintenance of the pool proved daunting and the Town Council shelved the plan.

Town Manager Kelly said Monday the tribe would kick in an additional $2.5 million for a “mitigation fund” to offset the impacts of the construction and possibly to help cover some of the costs of ongoing pool operations.

The details will be part of a “pledge agreement” the Town Council would approve before it goes to voters.

The tribe intends to begin circulating petitions soon to gather voter signatures to place the initiative on the ballot for a June 2 special election. To get on the ballot, the signatures of 15 percent of Windsor’s 13,284 registered voters need to be gathered, or 1,993 names.

On Wednesday, Town Council members acting as directors of the Water District are scheduled to take the initial formal steps to allow the deal to go forward by voting on an ordinance that clarifies the procedure for the tribe to access Windsor’s sewer and water services.

“What we are doing is making sure the town and Water District are in lockstep on this,” Kelly said.

The tribe still needs approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to have its land just outside Windsor taken into federal trust and enable its housing project to go forward without being subject to county land use guidelines and zoning.

The application was part of a lengthy review process, in which the county, town and neighbors raised numerous objections to facets of the plan, including the removal of more than 1,700 trees along with the housing density, increased traffic and other issues.

The BIA determined there were no significant environmental impacts that could not be mitigated, although final approval has been slow in coming for the Lyttons.

Stidham on Monday expressed confidence that federal regulators will eventually give their blessing to the project.

“Sooner or later, they are going to approve this,” he said. “This is a tribe that doesn’t even have a homeland and at this point that’s at the top of the list, in terms of housing for land needs when you look at taking land into trust.”

The Lytton tribe, now numbering about 300 members, was made landless in 1961 when the federal government dissolved its 50-acre Alexander Valley Rancheria north of Healdsburg.

As a result of what Congress acknowledged was an illegal termination, the tribe was allowed to take over a cardroom in San Pablo, where it established a 10-acre reservation in 2000 and opened a casino. Proceeds from the casino — estimated at $182 million annually — have funded the purchase of more than 200 acres in the Windsor area, including the proposed land for the housing, retreat and spiritual roundhouse.

The tribe had proposed the possibility of drilling its own wells and building a small waste treatment plant, but the identified superior environmental alternative is connecting to the town’s existing utilities.

By using the town’s water and waste system, the tribe would not have to use a 20-acre area it acquired just west of the Deer Creek subdivision for a reclaimed water holding pond, something that concerned nearby residents.

As it became more apparent that the tribe’s housing project would likely be approved regardless of local opposition, the Town Council became more open to allowing the tribe to access Windsor’s water and wastewater systems.

Windsor in 2012 conducted a study at tribal expense to determine whether the town has the capacity to serve up to 600 residents on the tribal property, concluding it was feasible if the Lytton Pomos paid for additional maintenance and capacity improvements.

Kelly said the tribe would be paying an estimated $6.5 million to hook up to the town water and sewer systems. The tribe also has reimbursed Windsor more than $116,000 for engineering studies and also reimbursed the town for its staff time spent on the issue.

The tribe also has made payments to other surrounding agencies to offset the impacts of its project, including $1 million to the Windsor school 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.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark. mason@pressdemocrat.com

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