By Lance Armstrong - Citizen Staff Writer
The Wilton Rancheria’s chairman on July 17 declared success in moving their proposed Elk Grove casino-resort forward.
They announced that a Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) executive dismissed an appeal that attempted to block the casino site’s land from being placed into a federal trust.
This 35.9-acre site is next to the future Elk Grove Outlet Collection mall near Kammerer Road, off Highway 99.
Wilton Rancheria Chairman Raymond “Chuckie” Hitchcock referred to the appeal as a “small hurdle” along the tribe’s “path toward self-sufficiency.”
“This decision solidly confirms the placing of land into federal trust was valid and that we have every right to continue forward with our economic development plans,” he said.
“This was another attempt to cloud our land into trust process by Stand Up for California! and card rooms. So, I’m ecstatic for that (dismissal of the appeal).”
The Penryn-based Stand Up for California!, which refers to itself as a casino watchdog group, filed the appeal.
Michael S. Black, acting assistant secretary for (the Bureau of) Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior, found that then-Acting Assistant Secretary Lawrence Roberts’ Jan. 19 record of decision for the tribe had been properly delegated and exercised with authority.
Cheryl Schmit, director of Stand Up for California!, said that the proposed casino-resort project is “far from a done deal.”
“This dismissal doesn’t change anything,” she said. “All of our arguments are preserved and will be amended into our complaint in federal court.
“The BIA can’t just thrust a casino into an urban community willy-nilly. In this instance, the BIA did not follow federal laws and regulations. A dismissal of the administrative appeal does not damage any of our arguments going forward.”
Hitchcock alleged that Stand Up for California! has been distorting the truth.
“Everything they’ve said up to this point has been nothing short of just distortion of truth,” he said. “The tribe has land into trust and we’re making our way moving forward.”
Hitchcock added that he was disappointed with continuously hearing that the land was not actually placed into trust.
“Everybody keeps on saying, ‘Well, wait a minute, this decision isn’t final, you don’t have land into trust,’” he said. “It’s disappointing to hear all this opposition’s comments and quotes being continually shoved down newspapers throats, clouding the issue and having a lot of people question, is it really in trust?’”
Wilton Rancheria spokesperson Robert Magnuson expressed his frustration with Schmitt and her organization.
“Stand Up for California! is led by Cheryl Schmit, who lives in Placer County and has represented gaming interests, despite portraying her organization as a gaming industry ‘watchdog,’ he said. “Her co-plaintiffs in the appeal filed with the Department of the Interior, Joe Teixeira and Patty Johnson, were active in gathering signatures for a voter referendum against the project.”
Knighted Ventures – which Hitchcock said finances the local card room, Park West Casinos – backed the referendum.