Lytton Pomos years away from Windsor homes project

by BERT WILLIAMS, News Editor , Windsor Times, 8/25/04

Regardless of the final outcome of negotiations over its proposed mega-casino in the East Bay, the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians will not begin to develop the property on the outskirts of Windsor for several years, according to a spokesman for the tribe.

"We're taking it one step at a time," said Sacramento-based spokesman Doug Elmets who represents a dozen tribes throughout the state, including the Lytton Pomos and the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians. The Rumsey band has agreed to operate the San Pablo casino on behalf of the Lytton Pomos.

"I would say it would be several years from now at a minimum," Elmets said of the possibility of home construction on the Windsor site.

Elmets explained last Friday that the compact signed by the governor must be ratified by the state legislature, undergo an environmental review process based on the National Environmental Policy Act, and then be approved by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

According to Elmets, even if developments progress rapidly, a fully-operational casino could not be fully in place on the San Pablo site for at least two years.

"Then there will be a considerable debt load that needs to be addressed," Elmets said. "The casino is the absolute priority now. The housing in Windsor is secondary."

On Tuesday morning, Elmets said that an agreement had been reached Monday evening between Governor Schwarzenegger's office and the Lytton Pomos' Tribal Chair Margie Mehia. The agreement specifies a maximum of 2,500 slot machines at the San Pablo casino, half of what the governor had expected last week to agree to.

"It's already signed and agreed to by the governor," said Elmets.

Darby Kernan, spokesperson for state Senator Wes Chesbro's office said Tuesday morning that meetings were under way at that time between the legislature and the governor's office.

"The intent is to put all the compacts (for five casinos in various parts of the state) into one bill," Kernan said. "Meetings are progressing with the governor."

Kernan said the legislature is hoping to adjourn by this Friday in order to focus on the Republican National Convention in New York City, but she was not sure the legislators would make the deadline. However, she did say the bill that includes the casino compacts should be out within a day or two, and that she expects it will be taken up by the end of the week.

Elmets said the Lytton Pomo band currently has 265 members. Though the prospect of casino income has sometimes caused membership to swell in other tribes, Elmets said he does not expect that to be the case with the Lytton Pomos. "Their tribe has consistently been around this number for years," Elmets said.