Lytton Tribe and Windsor end negotiations over wastewater treatment
Negotiations between the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians and Windsor over wastewater treatment from the tribe’s residential development have collapsed, and the tribe is now poised to construct a sewage treatment plant on its land abutting a residential neighborhood on the west side of town.
The breakdown in talks and the tribe’s new plan is a major setback in Windsor after a publicized deal was ratified 5-0 by the town council in May 2020. That agreement would have had the tribe paying the town $20 million, much of which was tabbed for building a new public recreation center with a pool.
“The Town is surprised and disappointed that after negotiating in good faith with the Tribe they suddenly reversed course and ended discussions on what would have been a win-win agreement,” Windsor Town Manager Ken MacNab said in a Wednesday statement.
Through a spokesperson, tribal attorney Larry Stidham and tribal chairwoman Margie Mejia declined to comment.
“We were not able to reach an agreement with the city of Windsor and we are now moving forward to build our own wastewater treatment plant,” tribal spokesperson Doug Elmets said.
The likely site of the sewage plant, according to MacNab, is on the northern edge of tribal trust lands, in a plot that abuts Windsor’s longstanding Deer Creek neighborhood.
“I think the tribe understands the concern about the impact on the neighbors and will do their best to (build) it in a way that’s respectful,” MacNab said. “But we haven't seen their plans.”
Town officials had sought to strike a deal with the tribe in order to prevent construction of that plant, which had concerned Deer Creek residents.
“We were trying to protect the Deer Creek neighborhood in any way that we could. That was our sole motivation,” Councilwoman Deb Fudge said.
Neighbors living near the projected wastewater plant site had mixed views about the change, some citing the inconvenience its construction and operation might bring.
“I’m not happy about it. We don’t want more people and traffic,” said Felicia McCabe. “I worry about standing water. Will they manage the mosquitoes?”
Her friend and neighbor, Tyffanee Hernandez, had similar feelings. She said generations of her family had lived in their house on Starr View Drive since at least the 1970s.
“We don’t like it — to have that water plant out there when we’re used to a field with animals. There will be more traffic and I won’t be able to let our kids play out here anymore,” she predicted. “Smell could be an issue.”
Resident Genevieve Taylor said she has seen a lot of racist comments toward the tribe on the neighborhood website, Nextdoor, “and I think it’s unfair.”
“These are people whose land was taken. They are from here. I think the council was under pressure from residents who have a NIMBY attitude,” she said, referencing the acronym for “Not in My Backyard” that’s sometimes applied to opponents of development.
As far as the plant being built near her, Taylor said “I think it’s great. With the environmental standards we have around here, it might be a benefit.”
Her husband, Christopher Peck, said he has been tracking the project closely and is upset about the possibility of losing the community pool.
“The idea of a new wastewater treatment plan being there, I’m not excited about it. Who would be? I thought this was just a negotiating tactic, but if this is the way it ends, I’ll be bummed,” he said.
Added resident Nancy Tang, “I don’t blame the tribe if they don’t want to tie into our system. We’re a mess right now,” she said, referring to the recent resignation of the town’s mayor, Dominic Foppoli, and the investigation of public claims of sexual assault leveled against him by nine women. “They’re their own entity, and they can do whatever they want. I don’t like that (the city) posted the letter about this on Facebook. It made it sound like it was all the tribe’s fault.”
Tribal leaders have not been forthcoming with town officials about their reasons for abandoning the negotiations, Fudge and MacNab said. The tribe plans to build 300 homes for tribal members on its land west of the town and has plans for a roughly 130-room resort, restaurants and winery in the future.
A big hitch in the negotiations came when the tribe expressed its desire to treat sewage for the commercial properties either with its own plant or by using the city’s.
Bringing a resort outside town into Windsor’s sewage treatment system required a ballot initiative, Fudge said, because it was outside the bounds of the town’s urban growth boundary plan. She believed the tribe, a sovereign government, had little motivation to jump through the hoops required by the town’s laws, she said.