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Ukiah tribe purchases property for new casino

A proposal to build a 90,000-square-foot casino at the north edge of Ukiah apparently is back on track as the Pinoleville Pomo Nation last month completed the purchase of a former car dealership on North State Street.

Tribal officials did not return phone calls Wednesday seeking comment.

The tribe previously had leased the property with an option to buy but the five-year contract expired late last year and the 8.8 acre-property was listed for sale for $3.2 million by then-owner Kandy Investments of Rohnert Park. The property includes three buildings with 27,000 square feet of space.

Since then, the tribe secured funding to purchase the property for $2.24 million, according to Mendocino County records. Financing was obtained through Indian Land Capital Co., LLC, a Minnesota Limited Liability company, records show.

The company, a Native American Community Development Financial Institution, specializes in financing the purchase of tribal lands. It does not require land be used as collateral, relying instead on the “full faith and credit of the Indian nation,” according to its website. The Ukiah parcel at one time was part of the tribe’s original rancheria established in 1911 but had been sold.

County records show that a Colorado law firm specializing in casino development is involved with the property purchase. The grant deed, filed Feb. 23, directs the recorded document to be sent to the tribe in care of Padraic McCoy, of Berg, Hill, Greenleaf & Ruscitti in Boulder.

McCoy was unavailable for comment Wednesday but has worked extensively with the Indian gaming industry, according to the law firm’s website, representing tribes, developers, investors, lenders, banks and landowners, and working some two dozen gaming projects in 20 states involving more than $1 billion in casino financing.

The Pinoleville Pomo Nation first announced plans in 2009 to build a $50 million, 90,000-square-foot casino and 72,100-square-foot hotel on the property.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a gambling compact allowing the tribe to build a casino with up to 900 machines in 2011. The county and the tribe entered an agreement on how to address traffic and other impacts of the casino in 2013.

Tribal officials at the time said the casino would bring jobs and independence while critics wondered whether another one was feasible, with two already nearby in Redwood Valley and Hopland. There also are casinos in Willits, Laytonville, Covelo and Point Arena in Mendocino County, at least four in Lake County and two in Sonoma County with a third in the works.

There were almost 70 casinos statewide in 2015, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Indian casinos located in a region that includes California and northern Nevada generated almost $8 billion in gross revenue in 2015, according to the NIGC. Nationally in 2015, there were 474 Indian gaming facilities generating almost $30 billion, the commission reported.

Besides the planned casino, the Pinoleville tribe over the years has launched other economic development endeavors aimed at boosting tribal income, including a medicinal marijuana enterprise in 2016 believed to have been the first large-scale, tribe-sanctioned operation of its kind. But local law enforcement determined the project, with some 400 plants, was illegal and seized the plants and materials.

The tribe has filed a claim against the county, contending the action was illegal. It has yet to file a lawsuit. Similarly, law enforcement seized more than 800 plants from the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians’ Rancheria last year. That tribe filed a claim against the county for the confiscated cannabis earlier this month.

In 2009, the Pinoleville tribe leased the landmark Hopland Inn with an option to buy it for just under $1.5 million. The hotel was opened, but then closed again.

Other area tribes have built gas stations with minimarkets to help generate income.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 707-462-6473 or glenda.anderson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MendoReporter.

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