Letter From Sacramento Trade Group Suggests Elk Grove, Wilton Rancheria Casino Under Scrutiny by Trump Administration
May 18, 2017 | A letter from a leading Sacramento construction trade group suggests the Trump administration and the Department of I...
The letter with today's date from the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange (SRBE) chief executive officer president Timothy A. Murphy is addressed to U.S Department of Interior Associate Deputy Secretary, James E. Cason. In the letter Murphy urges Cason to "immediately implement the January 2017 decision to place the acquired land into trust, allowing the Wilton Rancheria to move forward in providing for its nation." Murphy's letter can be viewed here.
Of note, Murphy says the SRBE recently became aware of a challenge to the decision in the waning hours of the Obama administration that placed 36-acres purchased by the tribe's financing agent, Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming, into Federal trust. Typically, off-reservation property needs Federal approval to be put into trust before it can be used for gaming purposes.
|Timothy Murphy (third left) was one of the dignitaries at the|
February 14 ceremony announcing Boyd Gaming's purchase of
land from the Howard Hughes Corporation for the Wilton
Rancheria's proposed $400 million casino resort in Elk Grove.
Although the land was hastily put into trust just before Donald Trump was inaugurated, that process has been challenged by the Indian gaming watchdog group, Stand Up For California (SUFC). Chief among its argument is that the land was administratively improperly placed into trust.
Among other arguments from SUFC was that when the notice of decision was rendered by Larry Roberts, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary on the evening of January 19, 2017, he had done so contrary to the Vacancies Reform Act. Roberts was assigned to the position of January 1, and by statute, his authority lapsed on or about August 3, 2016, and therefore, his decision is invalid.
Further muddying the waters for the Wilton Rancheria was a March 22, 2017 Supreme Court ruling that seemingly validated SUFC's argument regarding the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998.
The proposed $400-million casino resort has been a lightning rod of controversy since its wide-scale introduction last year with a many Elk Grove residents and parents who remain opposed. However, Murphy, a former Elk Grove Planning Commissioner, conveyed an image of widespread community support for the project in the letter.
Murphy states the "tribe's project also enjoys strong and complete support by local officials, including the City Council of Elk Grove, the City Council of Sacramento, and the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors." As part of the support, Murphy adds the tribe will pay Elk Grove and Sacramento County about $6 million annually for the next 30 years to mitigate adverse effects of increased traffic, crime, alcoholism, gambling addiction, and prostitution.
Additionally, Murphy cited the oft-repeated argument that the casino was needed to jump start the completion of the unfinished shopping center now known as the Outlet Collection at Elk Grove. Construction on the shopping center came to an abrupt halt nine years ago this July in the lead up to the credit collapse and the Great Recession and has been a source of embarrassment for the Elk Grove City Council.
Since that time, the shopping center has remained unfinished and is now owned by the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC). HHC sold 36-acres of their 100-acre parcel to Boyd Gaming, who is bankrolling the casino.
Murphy argues that development of the casino would allow "the tribe to move forward with a major entertainment and casino facility in the City of Elk Grove, which would also serve as a catalyst for a long-stalled and much desired Elk Grove regional mall on the adjacent property."
Although HHC has historically played their cards close to their vest regarding a possible opening date for the shopping center, a representative told the Elk Grove City Council last October that 2017 was possible. As if to buttress their claim, HHC placed two signs on the site last summer proclaiming their love for Elk Grove and that the unfinished shopping center would be opening in 2017.
Either through vandalism or one of the winter storms, both signs have been destroyed, and HHC has issued no further updates on when construction on the ghost mall would resume, much less open for business.