After the author of the Lytton Rancheria Homelands Act of 2015 (HR 2538), which protects against the prospect of the addition of another casino in Sonoma County, expanded the prohibition on gaming, the bill could be headed to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives.
On Friday, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said, that if his bill passes, which would create a reservation for the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians adjacent to Windsor, it would provide “bulletproof” protection against gaming there, according to The Press Democrat. Huffman said in addition to mirroring the agreement between Sonoma County and the tribe to not build a casino anywhere in Santa Rosa’s county seat for 22 years, it also includes a permanent prohibition against gaming, in what equates to from Santa Rosa to the Mendocino County line.
In addition to being supported by county officials and the tribe, Huffman’s bill is also supported by Governor Jerry Brown and co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson. Last month it received unanimous approval from the House Natural Resources Committee, a step necessary before advancing to a vote by the full House of Representatives. However, a number of Windsor residents believe that the bill is a “red herring” because the tribe has said for over 10 years that it has no intention of building a casino on land acquired in Sonoma County, which was made possible by proceeds from its San Pablo Casino in the East Bay. They believe the bill is just a way to facilitate plans by Lytton Pomo to place as much as 511 acres of land southwest of Windsor into federal trust and build a 200-room resort hotel, possibly 360 homes, and a 200,000-case winery.
Last March the county and Lytton Rancheria signed a memorandum for the tribe to do just that once its land goes into federal trust. Despite assurances from the tribe, Huffman said that without limitation or protection the possibility still exists, but that putting it into federal legislation safeguards it.
Huffman said that it’s preferable that a reservation is created through an act of Congress rather than administrative approval by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which has been in possession of the Lytton application for seven years. In addition, he said, considering that the BIA’s job is to look out for the tribe’s best interests, it’s not likely it would be sympathetic to an agreement that would prevent gaming, something that is viewed as working against the economic interests of the tribe.
More than 2,000 signatures against Huffman’s bill have been collect by Citizens for Windsor, a group led by former journalist, Eric Wee, who is spearheading the opposition to the Lytton project. While Huffman believes that opposition to his bill has decreased, he acknowledges a “critical mass of neighbors is opposed.”