The Wilton Rancheria Tribe held a news conference this morning to announce that the United States Department of Interior has officially placed 35.9 acres into a trust for the tribe. The placement of the land into the trust was recorded by Sacramento County on February 10.
The decision by the federal government makes it official that the land now belongs to the Wilton Rancheria Tribe. There has been confusion the past few months since the City of Elk Grove removed the land from a development agreement with the mall owner, the Howard Hughes Corporation. That decision set off a firestorm and petition gatherers, financed by a local card room owner, were able to garner enough signatures to possible force the move by the council to be put to a vote.
Misinformation fueled by local media and casino opponents, led residents to believe there would be a vote on the casino. Elk Grove Laguna News was one of the only media outlets to consistently state there would be no vote on the casino itself. We were also the only media outlet to point out that the development agreement would have no impact on the decision by the federal government.
On January 19, the federal government announced they had approved the tribe’s application for the Elk Grove location. In their announcement the US Department of Interior stated that the development agreement between the city of Elk Grove and the mall owner would have no impact on their decision. The formal process of recording that decision was placed on hold after President Trump was inaugurated.
At the city council meeting on February 8, the council voted to rescind their earlier decision on the development agreement modification. That decision meant there would not be a vote on the development agreement by Elk Grove voters. Casino opponents claimed victory after the council meeting, apparently thinking the decision would stop the casino. Again, local media provided inaccurate information on the result of the council decision. Today’s announcement officially makes it clear that this part of the process is officially over.
The next step for the tribe is negotiating a compact with the State of California to operate a casino. That process will take place this year. It requires a 2/3 vote of the State Assembly and Senate, before it will need to be signed by the Governor. No official announcement has been made on when the construction will start. At a community meeting in July, the tribe estimated it could start in 2019 with completion by 2021.
Full and complete coverage of the press conference was provided by Elk Grove Laguna Forums on Facebook