We Are Windsor – Brad Whitworth

The Honorable Don Young
House of Representatives
Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs
1337 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

1 July 2015

RE: Testimony for the Record Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2538 June 17, 2015

Dear Chairman Young, Ranking Member Ruiz, and Members of the Subcommittee:

I am a resident of Windsor, California. Our home is very close to the more than 500-acre proposed development by the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians. In late May, Rep. Jared Huffman submitted a bill to Congress that would move the land into federal trust, making it a sovereign nation and exempting it from local zoning regulations. I am very strongly opposed to this bill for these five reasons:

1. Absolutely the wrong thing to do in a severe drought
As you are aware, there is a drought here in California. The Lytton Project with a proposed 361 homes, a 200-room resort, more than 300 acres of vines and a 200,000-case winery would tax scare water resources from either the city, the Russian River aquifer or both. The Town of Windsor and the State of California both have mandatory water restrictions in place during this drought State of Emergency. An Environmental Impact Report taking a hard look at water usage must be conducted and shared with all involved parties before moving forward.

2. No citizen input
The Windsor Town Council has been negotiating an agreement with the Lytton Indians behind closed doors. County supervisors did the same thing. There have been no public hearings in which local residents could voice their concerns. The citizens who are going to be impacted, like me, have not been consulted and haven’t had a chance to weigh in on this important issue.

The Lytton Band has asked the Town of Windsor to provide water and sewer services to the site. However, the development site lies outside the urban growth boundary set by the town, and land-use enactments prohibit the supply of services outside this boundary. The town and the Lytton Band plan to hold an election to repeal these restrictions and include the Lytton lands within the town’s urban growth boundary. Furthermore, if the town refuses their request, the band has threatened to construct wastewater treatment facilities, including an effluent pond and spray fields next to an existing dense housing development.

If Congress takes the land into trust, it will deprive the town and its citizens of any effective choice. Instead, Congress should wait until the town holds an election, and then evaluate the situation based on that vote.

3. We want growth. We simply want smart growth
The county planning commission just killed a proposal from celebrity chef Guy Fieri to build a 10,000-case winery 8 miles to the south, citing traffic congestion and noise issues in a predominantly rural area. The proposed Lytton Band development site calls for a winery that’s 20 times as large. The proposal also includes a resort hotel that’s on the same scale with the nearby Wyndham Worldmark Windsor resort. Besides taxing water supplies, it would also put much considerably more traffic on Eastide, Starr and Windsor River roads … all two-lane roads with many recreational bicyclists and few bike lanes. Not a good mix. It would also create additional traffic congestion through downtown Windsor. I’d rather not see Windsor River Road turn into a four-lane thoroughfare connecting Highway 101 with a large resort hotel on Eastside Road.

4. How much land do they need for residents?
In 2002, the Lytton Band originally announced plans to have 50 acres taken into trust to provide housing for the members of the tribe. In April 2009, they nearly doubled that request to 92 acres. Then it was amended to include 124 acres, all for a residential project. HR 2538 applies to something four times as large — 511 acres, and it’s no longer just to “provide housing for tribal members.” If all this land is moved into trust, the Lytton Band would be exempt from state laws and county regulations regarding water conservation, farming, and wine production.

I believe the Lytton Band should be subject to the exact same land use and zoning rules as everyone else. Those rules are meant to protect not just the land in question, but all land in the area. The rules protect the environment and maintain a quality of life consistent with the desires of the local community.

There are 270 members of the tribe, including spouses and children. They are proposing to build 361 units. If every man, woman and child had his or her own housing unit, that means there would be an “extra” 91 units on the site. The latest US Census shows that the average number of people in a household is 2.6. If that same rule of thumb were applied to the proposed development, the Lytton Band would need just 103 units for its members. That means there would be an “extra” 258 units on the site.

5. The proposal calls for destruction of a sensitive environmental ecosystem
The proposed site would turn an intact, self-sustaining woodland with more than 1,500 heritage Blue Oak trees into a densely populated suburban tract. These Blue Oaks are native to the area and can be up to 300 years old. They are a precious resource and should not be destroyed on such a massive scale.

H.R. 2538 would be a completely arbitrary Act of Congress. The decision to take the 500+ acres into a trust is arbitrary – the tribe has no connection to this land. Further, this land is adjacent to our homes and is important to our community. Many community members would be harmed by the trust and the land’s proposed use, which is completely antithetical to planned land use in our area.

Please do not approve proposed legislation H.R. 2538.

Respectfully submitted,
Brad Whitworth
1337 Woody Creek Lane
Windsor, CA 95492