It has come to my attention that some community members are including my name in their opposition for the Lytton Residential Development Project, and furthermore, have used select pieces of public information to mislead the residents of both the Town of the Windsor and the County.

I am very concerned about detractors using a comment of mine from six years ago as a description of my position on the project’s status in 2015. In response, I would like to be on record with the facts as I understand them and my current position.

In 2009, the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians was purchasing land just west of Windsor, indicating an intention of building homes which would require water and sewer services.

With this property falling outside the Urban Growth Boundary and possible development inconsistent with the County’s General Plan, both the Town and County went on record in opposition. This is a standard legal response at the beginning of any non-conforming project in the County, and I indicated my concerns about the impact of the project at that time.

Much has changed in six years.

Legally, the County and Town’s option for stalling or stopping a proposed project is to demonstrate significant irreparable impact to the appropriate government entities. In the case of Indian tribes seeking to put land into federal trust, that governing body is the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

When the Tribe submitted their original land application, the County and Town went on record opposing the project. The BIA accepted the Tribe’s application and as a result, an Environmental Assessment was performed and submitted. The County and Town again went on record citing the Environmental Assessment was inadequate and didn’t fully address all the off-reservation impacts of the project.

The Tribe agreed to increased mitigation measures and resubmitted a final Environmental Assessment to the BIA in 2011. The County and Town remained on record that additional mitigation measures were needed. The BIA found the detailed mitigation to be adequate in response to the impact of the project and issued a finding of no significant impact. With this statement by BIA, the legal recourse to slow or stop this project ended.

This was unfolding at the end of my fourth term as Sonoma County Supervisor. Having led the opposition against Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians establishing a casino in Alexander Valley, and having been involved in the effort to stop Graton Rancheria from building a casino in Rohnert Park, over time I shifted to negotiating good agreements with these tribes and I understood that it would be in the county’s best interest to alter course and begin a more collaborative effort in working with the tribe as government to government. And when I witnessed the Lytton tribe investing in more land in Sonoma County, it became paramount that a strong working relationship between both parties be pursued and established.

I congratulate Supervisor James Gore, the Board of Supervisors and County staff for spearheading an unprecedented agreement between the two governments. Without such an agreement in place, the Lytton tribe could exercise their full legal right to develop all trust lands inconsistent with the laws of local jurisdictions. The County negotiated a strong deal for the community, and I encourage the Town of Windsor to follow the County’s lead in working effectively with tribal governments.

If anyone would like to quote my position today on this project, I welcome them as it is such: My belief is that it is inevitable that Lytton Rancheria’s proposed land will go into federal trust, either through the BIA administrative process or an act of Congress, and that enforceable agreements between local governments is the best course to limit development and protect the environment; while honoring tribal rights.

In speaking with many Windsor and Sonoma County residents, there have been questions and a groundswell of support for a reasonable approach in working with the Lytton tribe.

I hope the Town of Windsor will move in tandem with the Tribe for the benefit of residents of Windsor and the County.

Finally, I am a parent of three former WHS swim team members; I understand the value of an aquatic complex for our WHS swim team as well as families and master swimmers in the community. If we move forward with respect and prudence, we’ll secure a valuable community benefit for the Town and graciously welcome new neighbors to our community.

Paul Kelly was the Sonoma County Supervisor for the Fourth District from 1995 to 2011.

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