Casino rezone put off

September 10, 2003 12:00 am

By ABBY SOUZA

A vote to rezone about 5 acres of Chicken Ranch Rancheria land west of Jamestown has been delayed until Tuolumne County planners know how the change will affect the Rancheria's ability to put property into a federal trust.

At yesterday's meeting, county supervisors rescheduled a decision on rezoning a 5.33-acre site from residential to public and open space until Tuesday, Oct. 28.

In the meantime, the county Community Development Department will ask the Bureau of Indian Affairs whether this zoning will help the Chicken Ranch Rancheria earn federal trust status for the land.

If the land goes into trust, it becomes sovereign property governed by the tribe, not the county.

However, some Chicken Ranch Bingo and Casino neighbors don't want the land to become federal trust, and spoke against the rezone project during yesterday's public hearing.

"By rezoning, the parcel will be easier to be put into trust because the Bureau of Indian Affairs only considers zoning when it makes a decision," said Cindi Gerhart, a Rancheria neighbor. She is concerned because that designation would allow the tribe to do whatever it wants on the land — such as burning trash on county no-burn days. Gerhart said the trash now being burned on Rancheria land smells like plastic.

Community Development Director Bev Shane said the BIA won't take the land into trust — no matter what the zoning.

But Gerhart said that's not the way she understood it, and because of the difference in opinion, supervisors chose to delay the vote.

Supervisor Dick Pland, whose district includes Jamestown and the Chicken Ranch site, suggested the Bureau of Indian Affairs be called for a definitive answer on the issue.

"So the next time we talk about this, there will be one opinion," he said.

Regardless of whether the land is rezoned, Pland said he would like a sit-down meeting between county and Rancheria officials. In the past, communication between the two groups has been close to nonexistent, he said.