Archive » May 24, 2012
On the ranch
By Nancy Crawford-Hall, Publisher
Correction - Last week, I reported a rumor I had heard regarding the new ownership of the Red Barn.
Correction - Last week, I reported a rumor I had heard regarding the new ownership of the Red Barn.
What I heard was incorrect. I was contacted by one of the actual new owners: Matt of the Brothers Restaurant fame, recently of Mattei’s Tavern, called to correct the misinformation. I am relieved to hear that someone who knows our community will be in charge of our historic restaurant.
Backdoor dealsOne of the biggest issues not just in our Supervisorial election but in our valley community is the future of Camp 4. Everybody agrees that this is a special piece of property that is visible from most anywhere. It is located at the juncture between the last town, Santa Ynez, between Solvang and Santa Barbara. Thus, at this location, one would not expect major development if we are to keep our rural status. The vast majority of the population here desires the rural lifestyle; otherwise they would not live here.
Being a rancher owning the property directly across Armour Ranch Road, a narrow country road with no shoulders, I have some specific concerns regarding the future of that property. First of all, I use the property across the street as a cattle pasture and it is in a conservation easement in perpetuity as a cattle pasture and will never be built on. Thus, the parcel known as Armour Hill will always look just as it does today. It will always be rural ranch land. It is active agriculture, not open space! The surrounding properties are 100-acre parcels that were the divisions of the Armour Ranch many years ago. Most of them have been sold over the years and houses built some with barns and other accessory structures. Many have pastures for livestock of various sorts and recent properties have been developed as small vineyards. They are all, however, very low density.
The publicly stated proposed use for Camp 4 by the current owners is massive housing for members of the casino folks’ families. There is considerable question in the community as to whether this is really the goal, since many of those people don’t even live on their casino property. Many of them have rented out their houses there and have purchased other homes in the Valley where they actually live.
Because there has been no explanation for the sound test being done on the road at the back of Camp 4, most people are assuming that the rumors of a wine tasting room there are true. Perhaps it was for the proposed 5,000-seat amphitheatre we’ve heard about? Unfortunately, the surreptitious behavior by not only the county but the casino folk as well, makes everybody very suspicious of what exactly we are facing. Some of us have seen the previously rendered plans calling for the development of a large hotel, golf courses, equestrian center, restaurants AND housing. This plan was quickly scuttled, at least for the moment, when the Valley erupted into protests and quickly formed a number of organizations determined to prevent just such a development. Shortly after that, the plan changed to be housing for casino families, at least publicly.
So what exactly are the facts that we know here at this time? First, the Valley is vehemently opposed to massive development of the parcel. Second, we know that the casino folk have been going around to city governments within the county to find support for their effort to take the property out of local jurisdiction through the fee-to-trust process. So far they have not had any takers.
We know that the property has one of the biggest wells in the Valley, delivering @ 1,400 gallons per minute. I know this for a fact because my family drilled that well and the one across the street as well. A massive development on this property, as it is not connected to any public facilities such as water or gas, would necessarily have a tremendous impact on the currently available resources. This groundwater basin could be adversely impacted and surrounding properties that also depend on this source of water could suddenly find themselves high and dry. In addition to that very bad situation, they would find themselves also having lost the value of their property in an instant. This is not acceptable in any community.
We also know that there have been proposals, which we have printed here, for a government-to-government agreement. These documents would essentially give the go-ahead to the casino folk to develop anything they want, with no oversight or accountability to either the county or the community. In addition, it was required that the county provide whatever infrastructure improvements the casino folk demanded at the county’s (i.e. your tax dollars) expense. Whether you benefit or not is irrelevant.
We have also been told that Farr has written a letter or two to various federal people stating her opposition to fee-to-trust for this property and it is a major focus of her campaign rhetoric. What we haven’t heard is anything from the Board of Supervisors as a whole and, in fact, she has not once brought this topic to discuss with the board to oppose the fee-to-trust, even though she is the current Chairperson of the Board. What you may not know is that unless the Board of Supervisors as a whole formally requests an intervention by the state asking for help in opposing any move to take Camp 4 out of county jurisdiction which is what fee-to-trust does, the state will do nothing. According to the Governor’s Office, letters of the sort Farr has sent are meaningless because she has no authority on her own to do anything about the situation. So we either have a representative who doesn’t understand what is required to get this potential nightmare under control or she doesn’t intend to do anything about it for whatever reason.
Something else we know as a fact is that the fee-to-trust also removes the obligation to pay taxes of all sorts to the county and state that they desperately need in this time of financial stress. Once a property is removed from property tax rolls, it will never again produce income for county and state infrastructure including maintenance of roads, bridges or anything else. We are broke, or so say the politicians out of one side of their mouths while out of the other side they claim we need to spend money on all sorts of things we can live without, like fast trains and more publicly owned property.
Suckers at the troughI got a bulletin the other day from the American Land Rights Association who let me know that a provision of the Highway Bill in Washington includes a Land and Water Conservation Fund for $1.4 billion for the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service. This will allow these agencies to buy private land from so-called “willing sellers,” but due to our local experiences with the Park Service on Santa Rosa Island and the coast, we all know that the sellers have been forced into selling.
I know that some ill-informed people will still vote for these sorts of things, but I would urge you to consider writing, emailing or calling your representatives to protest this waste of money. There are any number of good reasons, but the two best are the well-known fact that we as a country are drowning in debt and cannot afford to buy anything right now other than the bare essentials. Another reason is the also well-known fact that many publicly owned properties are not being properly maintained because we simply don’t have the resources right now to do so.
National parks, state parks and local parks have all suffered from a decade of neglect. Lack of staffing has forced the closure of many parks, much to the consternation of the public. What has caused this conflagration of events? I think you can probably answer this one. Yes, it is the all too familiar bad economy and bad choices about what to spend our tax money on. I do hope we can elect some new politicians with more common sense than the ones we’ve got now.
Voter fraudDid you hear about the 15 people being prosecuted for voter fraud in New Mexico? Good grief! It started with fraudulent registrations! Gee, what a surprise! Why ever would someone commit registration fraud if they didn’t intend to continue with voting fraud? Come on! Let’s have some common sense here! What would be the point of just doing registration fraud?
There was an interesting program on this weekend focusing on voter fraud across the country. It appears to be fairly common being done by a variety of methods. Multiple voting, dead people being registered and voting, people who for a number of reasons are not eligible to vote but voting anyway and machine manipulations – all have a negative impact on our democracy.
Upside-downIn the meantime, some odd things are happening. Apparently the United Nations has been examining water quality in the Central Valley, Calif. Why is this and why would they have permission to interfere in our internal affairs? Who would have given them permission?
And how come political hacks can’t ever either get the facts straights or are they just lying? I read a recent letter sent out by the North County coordinator for Farr repeating the misinformation that she was owed $700,000 for attorneys fees when the truth is that the figure was more than $200,000 less than that AND the issue has not been settled yet. Somebody is either deliberately misleading voters or has been misleading themselves. Get it right, folks!
Finally, who is the ignoramus who thinks people in agriculture are so wealthy that they should be taxed for hiring illegals? Go figure! If you paid what it really cost for that lettuce, those plums, those strawberries or those steaks, you couldn’t afford any of it. We pay good wages, many get benefits and we barely pay our bills. Just my health insurance for my employees costs $12,000 a month, so keep quiet unless you know what you are talking about!