Lytton Rancheria agrees to pay Windsor $20 million to access wastewater plant
Windsor will accept a $20 million payment from the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians in exchange for allowing the tribe to connect to the town’s wastewater treatment plant for its large housing development just outside town on tribal land.
The Town Council voted 5-0 last week to approve the deal, which was negotiated over the past five months. The agreement outlines where sewage will be directed and treated for the majority of the development planned on the tribe’s 500-plus-acre reservation west of Windsor, which was formally recognized by the federal government last year.
A second approval between the town and the sovereign nation is still necessary to finalize several details, including utility maintenance responsibilities, water reclamation rights and the tribe’s monthly rates once service begins. But the initial vote affirms the intention of the town and the Lytton Rancheria to collaborate on a solution for the bulk of the wastewater from the tribe’s development, which envisions more than 360 housing units and several other tribal cultural and government buildings built during two phases.
The tribe had previously considered building its own water treatment plant, but instead settled on hooking up to the municipal system to take advantage of various efficiencies and strike a deal that is mutually beneficial to both sides, said Doug Elmets, a spokesman for the tribe. The agreement does not cover sewage service for future tribal commercial properties, such as a 200-room resort hotel and 200,000-case winery, and will still require the tribe to construct a smaller wastewater treatment plant once those projects are finished.
“It’s probably in everyone’s interest to be able to have an agreement and a connection between the tribal land and the town’s wastewater treatment,” Elmets said. “It furthers the cooperative government- to-government relationship that has evolved productively over time. This is something that works well for all parties concerned.”
The proposal came as a surprise to several Windsor residents, who criticized the Town Council during its meeting Wednesday for being in active negotiations that were not divulged to the public until early this month. The item was first identified by Town Manager Ken MacNab at the May 6 council meeting and landed on the May 20 agenda.
“It was news to a lot of people who have spent a lot of time and effort on ensuring the right thing is done and the legal thing is done,” said Windsor resident Betsy Mallace, 58. “Ultimately, do I think it’s the right thing to do? Yeah. My issue was that it wasn’t a public process.”
MacNab acknowledged that the item came before the council quickly once he and staff determined in April that terms would be reached between the two sides. It had not previously been discussed in public due to what he called the “sensitivity of negotiations,” but the tight turnaround, he said, was necessary based on the tribe’s construction timeline. The town made efforts to individually contact residents long involved in issues related to the Pomo tribe, he said.
The five council members each noted their intention to support the proposed deal before Vice Mayor Esther Lemus and longtime Councilman Sam Salmon requested the vote be delayed a week to allow the public more time to digest the lengthy agreement and offer more input. The other council members deemed it unnecessary, and all voted to back the agreement.