On May 21, 2015, Congressman Jared Huffman introduced H.R. 2538 – The Lytton Rancheria Homelands Act of 2015, to take approximately 500 acres of land into trust on behalf of the Lytton Tribe near the Town of Windsor.
On May 27, 2015, Governor Brown wrote to Congress supporting the legislation, affirming that the Act provides “the framework for mutually beneficial cooperative efforts that protect the Tribe’s sovereignty as well as the vital interests of Sonoma County residents” if land was taken into trust.
Prior to the introduction of this legislation, on March 10, 2015, during a public meeting of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the County of Sonoma entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Tribe (PDF: 2.2 MB). This Agreement was created to ensure that “should the land go into trust either through a congressional or administrative process,” there would be:
- A prohibition on gaming on the property;
- Payment of in-lieu taxes and development impact fees to support public services;
- Compliance with California fire and building codes;
- Full mitigation of off-site impacts of the Tribe’s projects, including traffic, and oak tree loss; and
- Enforceability of the Agreement through a waiver of sovereign immunity and binding arbitration to determine any disputed mitigation measures.
Complex Federal Indian law and policy govern the taking of land into trust by tribes. And while local government has no authority and limited influence on such decisions, there are efforts that can be made to help ensure that the off-reservation impacts of any such projects are borne by the Tribe and not the community. The facts below are intended to provide a context as to the various intergovernmental agreements entered into between the Tribe and local Sonoma County governments. Additionally, they underscore the overall assessment of the County that the land would be taken into trust by the federal government and that the Agreement was the only way to ensure that gaming would be prohibited and the off-reservation impacts would be fully addressed. Further, the negotiated elements provided a framework for a mutually beneficial intergovernmental relationship with the Tribe.