If the case had gone to court, could the gas station have been closed down?
No. Tribal trust land is exempt from local land use authority. The lawsuit was only to get environmental review on the impacts to County roads and utility easements for the entire 34.63-acre project. When the project was downsized by EID, the Council ensured that the settlement agreement include subsequent environmental review on the impacts to County roads and utility easements for the entire 34.63-acre project.
Why did the Council settle instead of going to court?
The lawsuit was originally filed because the County piecemealed environmental review of the project – meaning that they only did environmental review on the gas station portion of the full build-out project, which included an entertainment venue, hotel, restaurants, and fast food restaurants, on the 34.63 acres. However, during the course of the lawsuit, El Dorado Irrigation District (EID), the County, and the Tribe, worked to downsize the project to only the gas station. Downsizing the project had an unknown effect on our lawsuit and settlement seemed to be advantageous for both parties, and the Council was able to negotiate on issues beyond the gas station encroachments, such as the gun range, and environmental mitigations (i.e., stormwater system and underground storage tank inspection compliance). In addition, any further development on the gas station parcel will require an EIR on the full build-out of the entire 34.63 acres (Phase II).
Because the project was downsized, our attorney advised us that if we won the lawsuit, it would be unlikely that the tribe would have to do an EIR. Instead, they would reapply with the smaller project and use the existing Negative Declaration for environmental review. Due to the County’s dependence on the tribe for revenues, the smaller project would most definitely be fast tracked by the County. Therefore, the Council decided to settle the lawsuit because going to court would only delay the gas station for approximately 4 months and would not have any mitigations that we obtained through settlement.
Did the Council sell-out the nearby neighbors?
No. The County of El Dorado gave up its land use authority on this parcel of land in 2006 when it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the tribe and allowed the parcel to be put into tribal trust for the tribe. Per the 2006 MOU, the tribe annually gives millions of dollars to the County’s general fund and, in exchange, the County validates the tribe’s identity and sovereignty, and gives up land use authority on this 34.63-acre parcel. In 2016, the Board of Supervisors gave up the little bit of authority they had when they approved the gas station project and only reviewed the impacts from the gas station’s driveway and utilities easements rather than the entire 34.63-acre project, which included 3 driveways.
Why didn’t the Council listen to the nearby residents when negotiating the settlement?
The Council did listen to the public. With regard to the 34.63-acre project, the public clearly stated at the Board of Supervisors meetings that there were concerns about environmental review beyond the gas station portion of the full project. As such, the Council included and the tribe agreed to subsequent environmental review in the settlement. Additionally, neighbors have repeatedly stated over the past several years that the gun range has negatively impacted their quality of life and property values. Therefore, the settlement with the tribe includes mitigations that would have been unavailable in the lawsuit to bring the gun range into compliance with the El Dorado County Noise Ordinance. Lastly, local businesspersons brought up the potential for an unfair tax advantage by the tribe. That concern was also addressed in the settlement agreement. The requirement for the tribe to charge taxes on their products will help keep local businesses competitive with the tribe’s gas station and reduce the likelihood that it will attract hoards of customers and become a traffic nuisance.
Why did the Council settle with the tribe when the tribe has a history of renegotiating prior contracts and promises?
The Council requested that the jurisdiction of the settlement agreement be kept with the Court for enforcement. If the tribe does not follow through on any of the settlement points, then the Council can file a Motion with the Court for enforcement. If the Council files a motion and the tribe continues to violate the settlement agreement, the judge could find the tribe in contempt of court.
What will happen to the gun range?
The settlement agreement gives the tribe many different ways to bring the gun range into compliance with the County’s Noise Ordinance. The first step will be for the tribe to perform a feasibility study to determine whether or not converting it into an indoor gun range is feasible. If not, the tribe agreed to implement feasible mitigations to bring the outdoor gun range into compliance with the County’s Noise Ordinance. Additionally, the tribe has the option to close and remove the gun range, which would be the least expensive way to bring it into compliance with the County’s noise ordinance. Lastly, the tribe has agreed to receive a presentation regarding the potential for a solar farm on the gun range parcel and/or remainder of the gas station parcel. A solar farm would not require any outlay of capital from the tribe and would also bring the gun range parcel into compliance with the County’s Noise Ordinance.
How did the gas station project pass environmental review?
Tribal trust land is different than fee land. At this time, the Federal government gives tribes autonomy regarding development on tribal trust land. Therefore, the County did not perform environmental review on the gas station itself, and only performed a limited environmental review on the driveway and utility encroachments on County roads. Phone calls and emails by citizens to the EPA and to the BIA fell on deaf ears. As part of the settlement agreement, to alleviate public concerns, the tribe agreed to regular inspections of the underground storage tanks and to verification of the adequacy of the stormwater systems.
Why did the Council include private gates in the settlement?
The tribe’s original petition to put this parcel into trust was for the purpose of much-needed housing for its members, which complemented the existing neighborhood. However, when the tribe instead decided to put in a high-traffic commercial project which is not compatible with the existing neighborhood, the gates became mitigation for the incompatibility of the projects.
Why did the Council dismiss its appeal of the January 20, 2017 decision by the BIA to take 25 acres into trust?
In any negotiations both parties seek to gain something from settlement. The BIA has demonstrated that it is nothing more than a rubberstamp for fee-to-trust applications. As such, the Council decided it was best to use its resources to enforce the settlement agreement with the tribe. In addition the tribe has gone on record in the press that the land will be used for tribal housing.
What will the tribe do with the tax revenue that it will be collecting on gas and product sales?
The settlement agreement between the Council and the tribe does not determine how the tribe will spend the tax revenue. However, there has been talk between the tribe and the community to create a funding mechanism for public improvements in Shingle Springs. That funding mechanism is not within the scope of the settlement agreement.
Additionally, the County has stated in public forums that they will be working on an MOU with the tribe for the gas station’s tax revenues. The Council made repeated attempts to determine the details of the proposed MOU and the Council will be looking to have discussions with the County on this issue to protect local tax paying businesses.
What will happen to the attorney’s fees?
Approximately $30,000 of the attorney’s fees will be returned to the Council. The Council will need to retain those fees in the event that the tribe does not fulfill its obligations in the settlement, which would cause the Council to file motions with the court.