We Are Windsor – Roger Sprinkle Letter

06/28/2015

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

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 not against The Lytton moving into our area. We are a multicultural community and this diversity strengthens our community and enriches our lives. However, I am opposed to the passage of H.R.2538. It would create a segregated population not subject to the sames rules and regulations imposed up the rest of the community in respect to land use and zoning, water use and restrictions as imposed by the state during times of drought, environmental impact of proposed residential and commercial development, or even taxation like the rest of us pay.

H.R.2538 does not return ancient tribal lands to The Lytton. They have no ancestral ties to this land. This land has been purchased on the open market at prices far beyond of reach of normal investors because of the deep pockets afforded The Lytton from their very profitable Bay area casino. Now that they have the land, they want to have free rein on its’ development, unhampered by the current land use and zoning requirements. To do this, they need their land in trust. Since the BIA has yet to approve a 2009 application, The Lytton now seek Congressional approval to achieve this. The decision to take the subject land into trust for The Lytton would be a completely arbitrary act of Congress, even though Congress itself has criticized the BIA, in the past, for land into trust decisions as being too arbitrary. Congress should not step in, but instead allow the BIA to finish processing the application, based on their set criteria.

The Lytton have proposed building 361 housing units. Currently they only have 270 members, including spouses and children. Why the excessive number of units? The Lytton own 511 acres of which 71 acres are either within the Town of Windsor or within the already established Urban Growth Boundary. Residential development of these 71 acres should easily accommodate all 270 members, or more, without the need to violate current land use and zoning laws. So why does any land need to be taken into trust?

The answer is simple. The Lytton have proposed building a 200,000 case winery, a 200 room hotel, a spa, 2 restaurants and a gift shop. None of this has anything to do with housing their tribe. None of this is in the Sonoma County general plan. All variances from the general plan in regards to land use or zoning should be subject to the permit process in place and approval by the governing boards. The Lytton should be subject to the same regulations and restrictions that are already in place for developers. Why should a person who has had a property in their family for generations have to abide by these developmental restrictions, when The Lytton, who have only recently purchased this property, will be able to develop the property, however they want, with no restrictions.

With passage of H.R.2538, the land will be placed in trust and nothing will be able to stop this development, regardless of how detrimental it might be to the surrounding area or environment. We are in a multi-year drought and there is not enough water, either from the Town of Windsor or from groundwater, to support such development. Some residents, adjacent to tribal property, have already had to have their wells drilled deeper because the water table has dropped significantly, and this has occurred without of additional demand of the proposed development. The state has mandated a cut back on water usage, especially irrigation. Fines are in place for even washing your car. However, once Tribal sovereignty has been established by H.R.2538, The Lytton will not be subject to these restrictions. They would not be subject to state laws pertaining to water conservation, farming, or wine production on their proposed vineyard lands. They will be beyond state or local regulation, free to consume water as they see fit, even to the detriment of their neighbors.

To achieve their developmental goals, The Lytton plan to cut down over 1500 heritage blue oak trees. These trees, unlike The Lytton, are native to the area. Some are estimated to be 300 years old. They are an integral component of an important ecosystem connecting the California coastal ranges and the Maycamas Mountains. Passage of H.R.2538 will clear the way for the destruction of this intact, self-sustaining oak woodland and the ecosystem it supports.

I moved to Windsor almost 10 years ago. I did so because I liked the rural feel of the area. I enjoy the influence of the many cultures living here. The Town of Windsor even has an annual celebration embracing all cultures and their customs. The Lytton would be a welcome addition, adding to our diversity, but not at the expense of losing our rural feel, our surrounding ecosystem, or overtaxing our strained water resources. If being a part of this community is what they desire, then follow our land use and zoning rules. Help preserve the area as a desirable place to live, not destroy it. The thought of this proposed land rape brought to mind a Keep America Beautiful Public Service Announcement that aired on T.V. in the 70’s. It showed a Native American, dressed in traditional Indian clothing, paddling a canoe down a garbage-choked river to a town bursting with pollution spewing factories and people throwing trash out of their cars. It ended with a close-up of his face. A single tear rolled down his cheek. In the background the announcer said, “Some people have a deep abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country…….. and some people don’t.” It appears the roles have changed. It’s time to stand up for what’s important, for where and how I live. This time, it is I who sheds a tear.

I ask you to stand with me. Help protect the country I live in. Do not pass H.R.2538

Respectfully Submitted,
Roger Sprinkle
9133 Windsor Rd.
Windsor, Ca. 95492