Resistance is mounting in Windsor to the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians’ plans to build a housing project on the outskirts of town and the tribe’s proposal to add even more land to potentially construct a 200-room resort and winery.
About 100 residents packed the Windsor Town Council meeting Wednesday night to implore council members to oppose a pending congressional bill introduced in May by Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, which would place more than 500 acres into federal trust for the tribe to build more than 360 homes, a community center, roundhouse and retreat off Windsor River Road.
They said the tribe’s projects threaten the rural nature of their community; disregard the town and county general plans and urban growth boundaries; and will increase traffic and use up scarce water supplies.
Bryan St. Amant, who lives on Wellington Circle, close to the proposed housing project, said residents are going through a combination of shock, anger and sadness — the classic stages of grief — because they are losing something they love.
“Protect the town we love. Stand by our side,” he told the Town Council in urging them to reject Huffman’s bill.
The tribe’s intention of building a housing project has been known for more than a dozen years. But as the Lyttons steadily started acquiring land in west Windsor, the size of their housing project increased and only this spring did their plans become known to also pursue a 200-room resort and a large, 200,000-case winery.
“The people of Windsor are waking up and realizing what’s happening,” said Eric Wee, a four-year resident of Windsor who has helped gather more than 700 signatures urging Huffman to withdraw his legislation. “People are outraged about this.”
“It’s not a good project. There will be ramifications for decades if this goes through,” said attorney Steve Pabros, another Wellington Circle resident.
Council members did not reply to the approximately 20 speakers who addressed them because the comments were delivered under a non-agendized portion of the meeting. That restricts their ability to respond under state meeting law.
But City Manager Linda Kelly said the town will be holding an informational meeting Aug. 10 at a yet-to-be determined location to answer questions on the Lytton project and the town’s involvement.
She referenced an opinion piece she wrote in this week’s Windsor Times, in which she defended closed-door talks the town has had with tribal representatives. Kelly said the Town Council has been concerned all along that the tribe’s development plans and their impact to the town be mitigated to the greatest degree possible, and that there be no gaming or casino.
Though some residents have blasted town officials for “secretive” talks and negotiations with the tribe, she said the town has a right to the closed sessions because it’s a matter that could result in potential litigation.
Kristyn Byrne, the tribe’s community liaison, told the council that residents may be paying more attention, “but to say the process has been secret, or quick, is just untrue.”
For years there has been concern that the tribe, which owns a casino in the East Bay community of San Pablo, might want to add another one in Windsor, though it has said it has no intent to build another gaming facility.
The tribe in 2009 applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to have 124 acres along Windsor Road taken into federal trust and pave the way for their housing project, but the application stalled following an extensive environmental review and community meetings.