On Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Amador County Board of Supervisors voted to deny a request by the Jackson Band of Miwuk Indians for a letter of support for its effort to increase the acreage of the Jackson Rancheria. The tribe, represented by Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort CEO Rich Hoffman, told the board that it is submitting an application to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs for a transfer of 875 acres of land now owned by the Jackson Band from “fee to trust.” If approved, the size of the tribe’s trust land would increase to 2,215.09 acres, roughly a 50-percent expansion, according to District 4 Supervisor Frank Axe. All the involved parcels, ranging in size from 3 to 150 acres, have been purchased by the tribe and all, except for two totaling 10.43 acres, are contiguous to the existing reservation, an area east of Jackson currently bounded by New York Ranch Road and Highway 88. The proposed expansion would cross New York Ranch Road.
Property taxes collected on current assessments on the largely undeveloped land are calculated to be $95,000 per year. A transfer to “trust” status would remove the land from the county tax rolls, as well as from the county’s planning jurisdiction. Both changes were issues in discussion between the supervisors and Hoffman.
Hoffman was asked why the tribe was pursuing the expansion. He assured the board that there were no development plans (a guarantee of no additional gaming was in the written request), just a desire to protect the reservation by expanding the tribe’s proven stewardship to the surrounding land and allowing the tribe to have control of its destiny.
Concerns about the lost property tax revenue were quickly addressed. Hoffman assured the board that the tribe would reimburse the county what was lost. Asked about a written guarantee, the CEO said that a handshake between two long-time partners was as good as paper, but the tribe would certainly agree to a contract if preferred.
After the supervisors lauded the working relationship between the county and the tribe, “Probably the best in the state,” as well as the immense financial support the Rancheria had given the community over the years, the consensus was that an agreement in writing would be best.
When asked if the financial formula could reflect future assessment increases and lost sales tax, if any commercial development did occur, Hoffman answered, “Yes.”
The second major issue raised was the removal of the property from county control. District 5 Supervisor Brian Oneto was particularly troubled by a concern that neighbors would have no official input into what might happen on land removed from the planning process. Hoffman stated that the Rancheria was a good and sensitive neighbor, which could be verified by each and every one of its current neighbors. There was again a round of praise for the tribe’s community assistance, followed by an Oneto motion to deny the letter of support request. The motion passed, 3-2, with Axe, Morgan and Oneto in favor of the denial, while Crew and Forster opposed the motion.
Editor’s note: Title company records show that the Jackson Rancheria Development Corporation is the recorded owner of 64 properties in Amador County. The corporation also owns a 116-acre parcel of land in Calaveras County, on Highway 4, between Angels Camp and Vallecito. The Calaveras property was purchased in March, 2016, for $2.1 million. An article published in the Calaveras Enterprise at the time states that tribal representatives said the tribe has no plans to develop the property other than erecting fences to protect grave sites of ancestors buried there.
There have been no indications of a request by the Jackson Rancheria to move the Vallecito property from fee to trust status.
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