s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We hope you've enjoyed reading your 10 free articles this month.
Continue reading with unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month!
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you!
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for your interest in award-winning community journalism! To get more of it, why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app starting at just 99 cents per month, and support community journalism!
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Take the next step by subscribing today!
Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading Petaluma360.com, the Argus-Courier e-edition and our mobile app, and support local journalism!
Already a subscriber?

Petaluma objects to Windsor tribe bill

X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

Login

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

LoginSubscribe

The Petaluma City Council is unanimously opposed to a bill that would help an Indian tribe develop land near Windsor, saying it could “paint a bull’s eye” on Petaluma for unwanted development including a casino.

The council on Monday sent a letter to Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Dianne Feinstein opposing H.R. 597, which would take 124 acres of land into federal trust for the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians. The tribe, which owns a casino in San Pablo, plans to build tribal housing and a winery on its Windsor land.

In its letter, the second in two months, Petaluma argued that the bill would set a precedent for development in rural areas of Sonoma County that voters have protected with urban growth boundaries and community separators. Taking land into trust allows tribes to bypass local zoning regulations and build virtually anything.

“Petaluma views the Lytton proposal and H.R. 597 as a pernicious test case that could serve as a model for frustrated landowners and anti-zoning developers to partner with a tribe and blow up carefully designed regulations limiting sprawl development on lands adjoining cities throughout the region,” the seven-member council wrote.

The bill was passed in the House in July and is now being considered by a Senate committee. The bill prohibits the Lytton tribe from building a casino on future land taken into trust for 20 years, and it permanently prohibits gaming on any land in the county north of Highway 12.

Petaluma City Councilman Mike Healy, who has opposed casino development in Sonoma County, said this provision could make casino development in the south county more attractive. He proposed changing the language in the bill to prohibit gaming on any land in the county that the tribe takes into trust.

“That kind of paints a target on us,” he said. “It looks like a blue print for blowing up urban growth boundaries.”

Larry Stidham, an attorney representing the Lytton tribe, noted that the legislation has been in the works for three years, and he said this is the first time he has heard of Petaluma’s opposition.

“It’s a little late in the game to be objecting to it now,” he said.

The bill is limited to Lytton-owned land. A separate tribe, the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians, owns a 277-acre parcel just south of Petaluma at Kastania Road. The Dry Creek Tribe in 2002 opened River Rock Casino in Geyserville, at the time the first casino in Sonoma County. In 2013, the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria, a rival tribe, opened the $800 million Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park, a development that severely undercut River Rock’s profits.

The Dry Creek tribe missed guaranteed payments to the county and sought to restructure its debt as officials worried that the tribe would attempt to build a casino or other revenue-generating development on the Petaluma land it acquired in 2004. The tribe in 2015 renegotiated its deal with the county, an agreement that prohibits the Petaluma land from being taken into trust until at least 2025.

Supervisor David Rabbitt, who was involved in negotiating deals with the Dry Creek, Graton and Lytton tribes, said the county has received the most benefit it could from Indian lands, which are treated by the federal government essentially as sovereign nations.

He said that federal law allows tribes to take their land into trust and develop them without any local input. In negotiating agreements with the tribes, local governments can at least mitigate the impacts of those developments, he said.

“It’s difficult for a local government because you don’t have ultimate authority on land use. They have a way around you,” he said. “You have to recognize there are things you can control and things you can’t control.”

Rabbitt said he does not think the Lytton bill would entice a tribe to develop a casino near Petaluma. In 2006, Petaluma voters overwhelmingly passed an advisory measure to oppose a casino.

“Is it always better to have an absolute prohibition on gaming? Yes. Can we enforce it? No,” he said. “It’s a balancing act.”

Chris Wright, chairman of the Dry Creek tribe, did not return messages seeking an update on the tribe’s Petaluma property. Rabbitt said he has had recent discussions with tribal leaders about possible agricultural uses for the property.

“They’re looking at ways to get some revenue out of it,” he said.

In a September letter to the U.S. Senators from California, the Petaluma City Council said the Lytton deal “represents another unsavory step in the reservation-shopping saga in the North Bay.”

By restricting casino development north of Highway 12, the letter argued that Petaluma would be the only other option for a developer.

“No new casino would want to locate in Rohnert Park because the Graton casino is already there,” the letter said. “Conversely, locating in or near Petaluma would be attractive — as the Dry Creek investment demonstrates — because it would leapfrog the Graton casino and be closer to the central Bay Area.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)