Sonoma County, Lytton tribe set to reach development deal
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.