Sonoma County, Lytton tribe set to reach development deal

The agreement includes housing and a community center on Windsor's western boundary, prohibits a casino but allows for a winery of up to 200,000 cases and a 200-room resort.|

Sonoma County supervisors are poised Tuesday to sign an agreement with the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians that supports their planned tribal housing and community center on Windsor's western boundary, and the expansion of their proposed tribal lands to include a future resort and winery.

The deal would prohibit a casino and also ensure the tribe develops most of its property according to the county and Windsor general plans — other than a winery of up to 200,000 cases and a 200-room resort.

County and Windsor officials on Monday said the agreement will provide a measure of certainty and control over what the Lytton Band can do with its property, even after it is taken into federal trust and no longer subject to local and state land-use regulations.

The agreement 'provides assurances that all of the off-site impacts will be managed, all on-site development will be according to the general plan and up to code, and an assurance that there is a prohibition against gambling,' said North County Supervisor James Gore.

With profits from its San Pablo Casino in the East Bay, the Lytton Pomos have steadily been acquiring land in Windsor for more than a dozen years with the intent of re-establishing a homeland in Sonoma County.

Their rancheria north of Healdsburg was dissolved in 1958 and the land sold off, like many other California rancherias around the same time.

Chief Deputy County Counsel Jeff Brax noted that when the 270-member tribe was restored in 1991, the court settlement called for the county to assist in helping the tribe find suitable lands for tribal housing and economic development.

The Lyttons want to build 147 homes on 124 acres south of Windsor River Road, along with a community center, round house and retreat.

Their application to have the land taken into federal trust and allow the project to proceed has been pending with the Bureau of Indian Affairs since 2007, but county officials believe the tribe eventually will get the approval it needs.

'The first thing to understand is that what is allowed to be taken into trust is not dictated by us at the county level,' Gore said. 'It might take time, but it is their ancestral footprint,' he said.

He said it is better to be in partnership with the tribe as it moves ahead with its plans 'in a way that is appropriate for the area and the community, and the environmental effects and all those things are taken care of.'

Both Gore and a tribal spokesman said Monday that the county's support could lead to legislation by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, to take the land into trust through an act of Congress, rather than waiting on the bureaucratic approval through the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs.

'We believe Huffman will sponsor legislation consistent with taking that land into trust,' said Lytton attorney Larry Stidham.

Huffman could not be reached for comment Monday night.

At one time the tribe's project was strongly opposed by both county supervisors and Windsor Council members. But with the dawning reality that the Lyttons will eventually get their project approved, officials have been willing to negotiate.

The tribe has given millions of dollars to the Windsor school and fire districts to offset the impacts from its planned housing project and also is negotiating with the town of Windsor to get water and sewer service. In exchange, the tribe would build a long-sought municipal swimming pool at Keiser Park.

But the deal needs to be approved by Windsor voters — potentially on the November ballot — because the tribal housing project is outside the town's ultimate boundary.

The tentative 22-year agreement with the county, which is up for approval by the Board of Supervisors at their 8:30 a.m session Tuesday, calls for the tribe to pay the county $6.1 million for one-time impacts, such as to county roads, parks and woodlands.

The tribe also would pay the county its share of property taxes that would otherwise be required if the lands were not in federal trust.

The agreement also identifies a half-dozen parcels the tribe owns with access either from Eastside or Starr roads where the tribe might pursue a winery or resort.

Those plans would be subject to federal environmental review and mitigation of any off-trust land impacts.

The tribe would also pay the county in-lieu fees for room taxes if it builds a resort.

'We don't have any specific time frame, We don't have specific plans at this point,' tribal spokesman Stidham said of the resort and winery.

He said that project and acquiring vineyards fits into the tribe's plan to expand economically beyond gaming.

The tribe also wants to buy another 800 acres southwest of Windsor to add to its trust lands, potentially creating a total of more than 1,300 acres of Indian land in the Windsor area.

In exchange for the county not opposing the expansion of trust land, the tribe would agree to develop any additional properties consistent with the county's general plan and zoning ordinance.

The agreement calls for the county to initially support the tribe's intent to expand its original 124-acre homeland to a total of more than 500 acres it currently owns in west Windsor. Some of that land includes about 70 acres of pasture and undeveloped land the tribe owns west of Deer Creek subdivision, which is in Windsor's urban boundary and designated for future residential development under the town's general plan.

But the tribe would agree not to build more than the 214 units allowed there under Windsor's General Plan. The homes would be limited to tribal members as the tribe grows, and also to tribal employees.

'We've discussed with them that any further development, they would be willing to agree to conform with the general plan, which I think is positive for the community,' said Windsor Town Manager Linda Kelly.

The agreement between the tribe and county also provides for dispute resolution and court enforceability with a waiver of the tribe's sovereign immunity for that purpose.

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or On Twitter@clarkmas

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