Lytton Pomos shelve ballot measure, fueling concerns over development plans
The Lytton Band of Pomo Indians this week began clearing ground and demolishing buildings to pave the way for their controversial Windsor tribal housing project, even though the tribe has yet to obtain federal approval for a reservation.
A tribal spokesman said they are confident the government will sanction their proposed homeland and they want to move as quickly as possible to begin construction on their $180 million project on the heavily wooded site they own on Windsor’s western boundary.
At the same time, the Lytton Pomos are delaying plans to seek voter approval to hook up to town utilities, and say it is just as likely they will drill wells and build their own sewer plant on property they own behind a residential subdivision.
Windsor officials expressed concern about the potential shift in the tribe’s plans for obtaining sewer and water. For the past five years, the tribe has been moving toward asking Windsor voters to approve a ballot measure that would extend town utilities to their project in exchange for a “community benefit” the Lyttons would provide — building a long-sought swimming complex for the town.
But tribal spokesman and attorney Larry Stidham said this week the tribe has made no decision which option it will choose for water and sewer service to its planned 147 homes and is further exploring the possibility of building a sewer plant behind the Deer Creek subdivision.
“We’re trying to get a better gauge of the costs and size of the packet plant,” he said of the relatively small sewage treatment facility and holding ponds that could be built in a meadow, on land the tribe acquired next to the upper middle-class housing tract on the town’s western edge.
Windsor officials expressed some dismay over the apparent change of direction by the tribe, noting that the town has been working with them to facilitate the extension of municipal utilities, the environmentally preferable alternative.
A federal environmental review launched in 2009 determined that it was much better than having the tribe build and operate its own plant and discharge the treated effluent into a ditch that flows to an old gravel pond adjacent to the Russian River. That option was protested at the time by Windsor officials who cited its effect on endangered fish and proximity to the town’s drinking water wells.
“It’s concerning to me,” said Town Manager Linda Kelly. “Our understanding all along was the tribe has wanted to be a good neighbor to the town and Deer Creek after being on that path for five years.”
The Lytton project has been the subject of periodic news coverage for more than a dozen years, but exploded into one of the hottest topics in the town’s relatively young history last year as residents packed meetings, mostly to object to the willingness of Windsor and Sonoma County officials, as well as Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, to negotiate and strike agreements with the tribe.
The Lytton Pomos have used profits from their San Pablo Casino in the East Bay to steadily acquire property around Windsor and other parts of Sonoma County. They need to get their Windsor land placed into federal trust for a reservation if they want to build their tribal housing project, community center and tribal retreat.