By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Foes of an Indian casino on which work has started next to Rohnert Park have challenged the legality of a 2003 revenue-sharing agreement between the city and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
If the deal is invalid, they argue, so is the state compact allowing the tribe to operate a Las Vegas-style casino.
The center of the new assertion is that the agreement, which would direct about $200 million to the city for public safety, education and other services, specified the casino would be built on a different property than the one now being readied for construction.
When the agreement was signed, with the aim of compensating the city for the casino’s impacts, the tribe’s plans were to build on a site northeast of Rohnert Park Expressway and Stony Point Road.
That property overlaps in places with the current 254-acre Wilfred Avenue reservation. But the agreement articulates the casino footprint as being on a different parcel of land, closer to Stony Point Road, than where the casino is now to rise, on 64 acres off Wilfred Avenue and south of Home Depot.
“Everyone has known for a long time that the (agreement) is site specific and doesn’t cover any other site, but it’s never been fixed,” said Petaluma Councilman Mike Healy, who wrote the complaint.
Environmental reports that were part of the federal government’s approval of the project said: “Although the MOU does not apply to the Wilfred Avenue site it is assumed that it would be renegotiated with similar terms for a casino in the Stony Point Site.”
Rohnert Park officials said that discussion related to the new site will take place, but they haven’t started yet.
“There will be some discussions,” said City Manager Gabe Gonzalez. “My understanding is that right now they’re kind of busy getting their project up and running.”
The Stop the Casino 101 group has added the complaint to a lawsuit filed in June in Sonoma County Superior Court challenging the sovereign status of the tribe’s reservation. The suit names Gov. Jerry Brown. The state has until Aug. 31 to respond to it.
Brown this year signed the tribal-state agreement that gives the tribe the right to run its proposed casino. The agreement requires the tribe to have in place agrements with the county and Rohnert Park addressing the casino’s impacts before opening.
Gonzalez said the city’s attorneys have yet to review the amended lawsuit.
However, he said, “In terms of our due diligence, we believe we are within the legal paramenters.”
The state and tribe have both declined to comment on ongoing litigation.