Meeting with tribe about land a good first step, Auburn officials say
The first meeting between representatives from Auburn and the United Auburn Indian Community since its Baltimore Ravine ownership was thrust into the spotlight produced no definitive answers, but was “productive” and “encouraging,” city officials said.
City Manager Bob Richardson and UAIC Tribal Administrator Roman Porter met for an hour Thursday to discuss what lies ahead for the last significant undeveloped land within the city.
It had been approved by City Council in 2011 for a development project including 270 housing units and 54.5 acres of open space.
However, in recent months a series of anonymous letters delivered to residents surrounding the Baltimore Ravine led to the revelation the UAIC owned that land, sparking fear in some that the tribe might apply to have the land taken into federal trust, giving it sovereign power over its use.
The tribe had no comment Friday, but has recently said it has no plan to apply to take that land into trust.
Mayor Kevin Hanley said Thursday’s meeting was a good first step in maintaining “good neighbor” relations with the tribe. Richardson said he and Porter will be having regular meetings to keep each other informed on city and tribal projects.
“It was a very productive meeting,” Richardson said. “It provided both administrators to have an opportunity to get a better understanding of each of our positions.
“I think the tribe was caught a little off guard by both these letters and subsequent publications, and I think just the speed and timing of everything kept us from having good and clear communication.”
Asked whether the tribe gave any indication as to its future Baltimore Ravine plans, Richardson calculated his response during a momentary pause.
“Though the tribe does have the legal authority to apply to put any land they own into trust, there is no specific indication that they are moving in that direction,” he said. “And all land that they are currently proposing to put into trust (at the Auburn Rancheria) is consistent with their 2000 MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the County.”
The UAIC’s five applications to the Bureau of Indian Affairs propose to have about 11 acres taken into federal trust within the boundaries of the Auburn Rancheria – where some of its members currently live – at the crossing of Indian Hill and Auburn Folsom roads.
A small strip of land separates the Rancheria from the tribe’s Baltimore Ravine land.
“I think the important thing at this juncture is that the Baltimore Ravine project continues to move forward as it would with any other investor in this economic climate,” Richardson said. “Staff has found no indication that it has not. By all appearances it continues to move forward as anticipated.”
Said Hanley: “I think we’ll see further discussions within the tribal council, and then further discussions between the tribal administrator and back to the city, and we’ll start to get some clarification on the future of that property.”
Jon Schultz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews