Negotiations between the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and Santa Barbara County representatives regarding the Chumash Casino expansion crapped out last week when tribal leaders said the county violated terms of their agreement.

The negotiations were scheduled for both parties to discuss the impacts of the casino expansion on the Santa Ynez Valley as they were reported in a county study. The expansion, which includes a 21,000 square-foot temporary casino/bingo center and a four-story, 1,100-space parking structure, has met opposition from the county Board of Supervisors and local residents, who said the tribe has not maintained a “good-faith effort” to comply with state-mandated environmental laws. Last week, 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall traveled to Sacramento to ask for state intervention in order to make the tribe comply with the good faith agreements.

Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta said the Chumash canceled negotiations because county representatives betrayed them by appealing to the governor.

“We definitely plan to renew talks with the county as soon as everybody is being a little bit more reasonable with us,” he said. “When they actually do what they say they are going to do, we will be cooperative. We made agreements during meetings that were not honored – I don’t call that working with us.”

Marshall said Chumash representatives have been unresponsive to community concerns.

“Every tribe, under the gaming law, must have a compact between the governor and the state. Under this compact, the tribe is supposed to meet with the community and local government to discuss the impacts of the expansion,” Marshall said. “They have had only one small public meeting where they listened to a few people comment and gave no feedback.”

Marshall said the tribe has failed to comply in “good faith” with state and federal environmental impact legislation as outlined in the compact between the Chumash and the state.

“The county administrator, Michael Brown, put together the mitigations and impacts to the Santa Ynez Valley and we showed it to Armenta,” she said. “I’d like to use this document as a starting point for discussion. We laid out traffic impacts, visual impacts and environmental impacts, and they have given no response.”

Marshall testified in front of the Gaming Commission last week to ask for state intervention in the expansion.

“It is up to the governor to either enforce the compact as we understand it or to tell us what the compact actually means,” Marshall said. “We are not arguing against gaming, we just need to be clear on the guidelines.”

Community members in the Santa Ynez Valley have formed a grass-roots organization, the Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens (SYVCC), as a way to protect valley citizens from an uncontrolled expansion, SYVCC co-chairman Charles Jackson said.

“We are demanding the tribe follow the compact they signed with the governor,” Jackson said. “We feel they are interpreting the compact in a false manner. We also feel that the projected size of the expansion is way too large for this valley to accommodate. We want the tribe to work with the community on this expansion,” he said.

Armenta said the tribe was willing to work with the SYVCC until the group violated the tribe’s trust by bringing in the county.

“We were having meetings with them until they pulled a 360 on us. They asked to keep the meetings confidential – we agreed, and then they turned around and reported the meeting to the Board of Supervisors,” he said. “Their primary goals do not seem to be concerned with the Santa Ynez citizens, but with closing the casino down. They never mentioned any of the other building projects going on. Are they really Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens or Santa Ynez Valley citizens against the Chumash Casino?”

SYVCC will continue to inform the public about the expansion and reflect community response, Jackson said.

“We are here to act as the voice of the local community,” he said. “The community is appalled with the size and scope of this expansion and the lack of dialogue between the tribe and the community.”

Armenta said he is willing to resume negotiations if they are handled honestly.

“If someone wants to sit and talk with us openly and honestly, we are more than willing to do so,” he said. “I predict a great working relationship with the county as soon as everyone understands what’s going on.”