A Santa Ynez Valley ranch has filed a complaint against the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors as a whole and its members individually seeking to prevent their approval of a memorandum of agreement with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

The complaint filed Tuesday by attorneys for San Lucas Ranch LLC seeks a court declaration that the supervisors lack the authority to enter into the agreement and preliminary and permanent injunctions preventing them from voting on and entering into the agreement.

The suit also names Does 1 through 30 as defendants and seeks an award of attorney fees, costs and prejudgment interest.

Supervisors are scheduled to consider the memorandum of agreement regarding the Camp 4 property in a special meeting set for 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31, in the board’s Santa Barbara hearing room.

A request for a temporary restraining order to prevent the supervisors from considering the agreement Tuesday is scheduled to be filed Wednesday, said A. Barry Cappello, an attorney with the Cappello & Noel law firm of Santa Barbara, which filed the suit.

Neither 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann nor representatives of the Chumash tribe responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

The lawsuit revolves around the 1,427-acre Camp 4 property east of Highway 154 and west of Highway 246 that was purchased by the Chumash tribe in 2010 with the intent of building tribal housing, a community center and other improvements.

At the tribe’s request, the Bureau of Indian Affairs issued a decision to take the land into trust, which would allow the tribe to develop the property outside the jurisdiction of county and state laws, result in a loss of tax revenues to the county and fail to compensate the county for services provided.

Over the course of more than two years, the county negotiated with the tribe and reached an agreement on how the property will be developed, providing limited control to the county, waiving the tribe’s sovereign immunity and providing for reimbursement of county services, among other issues.

The lawsuit filed by the San Lucas Ranch alleges the tribe’s proposed development of 415 residences and a 12,000-square-foot community center fails to meet all provisions of the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan, which the supervisors have admitted.

Therefore, the suit alleges, the supervisors lack the authority to approve the memorandum of understanding, which it says will harm the San Lucas Ranch by depleting the groundwater supply, polluting the ranchland with runoff and increasing traffic, noise, trespassing, property destruction, fire hazards and general nuisances.

It also claims the development will threaten environmental resources the ranch has devoted much of its property to protect, including the vernal pool fairy shrimp, steelhead trout, red-legged frogs, least Bell’s vireos and Thompson’s bats.

The suit also alleges the development’s failure to comply with the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan will change the character of the area in the specific ways the plan was crafted to prevent.

Should the court grant a temporary restraining order before Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will be barred from considering and voting on the memorandum of agreement.

It’s unclear how that would affect the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decision on taking the Camp 4 land into federal trust or House Resolution 1491, which would reaffirm that decision and order the bureau to take the land into trust.


News Editor

Mike Hodgson is news editor at the Santa Ynez Valley News, where he writes about local government, special events and the people who live in the Valley. He has been a photographer, writer, news editor and managing editor at weekly newspapers since 1972

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