Residents Raise Water, Design Questions About Scenic Drive Hotel Project

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An early artistic rendering of the hotel — one that Trinidad Rancheria officials say was only a placeholder and doesn’t reflect current design concepts. - BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs Environmental Assessment
  • An early artistic rendering of the hotel — one that Trinidad Rancheria officials say was only a placeholder and doesn’t reflect current design concepts.

For the second time in less than a month, about 100 local residents filled Trinidad Town Hall on Oct. 15 to ask questions about a large hotel being planned on the bluffs above Scenic Drive by the Trinidad Rancheria.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the Trinidad City Council and by the Trinidad Rancheria. All five city councilmembers were present, along with City Manager Dan Berman. Also present were a team of rancheria officials, including CEO Jacque Hostler-Carmini; Government Affairs Coordinator Shirley Laos, Tribal Councilmember James Brown, Interim Director of the Trinidad Rancheria Economic Development Corporation David Tyson, and consultant Trenton Wilson, representing Analytical Environmental Services, the firm that wrote the Environmental Assessment for the project.

At an earlier meeting held Sept. 27 by HARP, a local citizen's group, residents raised many unanswered questions about the proposed six-story hotel and its environmental impacts. The rancheria had previously planned to meet with the City Council on Nov. 9 but moved the meeting up three weeks so that residents would have time to comment to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which oversees the project. The public comment period ends on October 22.

The tone of the meeting was restrained and civil, with Mayor Susan Rotwein keeping tight reins on the proceedings. Hostler began with an overview of the planning process for the hotel and many other improvements to the Rancheria, a process that began in 2009. The plans include a new freeway interchange from U.S. Highway 101 to Cherae Lane on the Rancheria's land, as well as improvements to the pier in Trinidad Bay.

Laos then gave a detailed history of the complex network of federal laws that have given the rancheria the right to proceed with the project — and the freedom from conforming to California state environmental planning laws. The project, however, must conform to federal environmental standards.

For the next hour, members of the audience asked questions, either written on cards or spoken at the dais. Two main concerns dominated the questions: the size and design of the building, which nearly all questioners said was inappropriate to the natural background of Trinidad Bay; and the rancheria's plans to get water for the 100-room hotel from the city of Trinidad at a time when the city is questioning the capacity of its sole source, Luffenholz Creek, to supply current residents.

At a city council meeting held five days earlier, City Manager Dan Berman had acknowledged that the actual amount of water in the creek was unknown, and that during the drought years of the 1970s the city had come close to being unable to supply its residents with water. The city's engineering consultant, GHD Consulting Engineers, will study the creek more extensively but will not have answers for several months.

Several residents wondered why the rancheria was not taking better advantage of the natural beauty of the bay and bluffs in its design plans.

Tyson and Wilson answered questions but offered little information that was not already available in the 443-page Environmental Assessment that was released to the public on Sept. 19, a document many residents found confusing and incomplete.

Some residents also had questions about the proposed interchange but Rotwein would not allow the topic to be discussed.

The city has requested that the Bureau of Indian Affairs extend its comment period beyond Oct. 22, but the agency refused.

Rotwein cut short the audience questions so that the city council would have time to discuss the issues. She acknowledged that the city had several concerns about the project and would send a commenting letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A subcommittee consisting of Rotwein, Councilmember Steve Ladwig, and as-yet unnamed members of the public will draft the letter. Residents who would like to be part of this committee can email the mayor at srotwein@trinidad.ca.gov

To read the EA, go to https://trinidad-rancheria.org or view a paper copy at the Trinidad Library.

To comment on the EA: mail comments to:
Amy Dutschke, Regional Director
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Pacific Regional Office
2800 Cottage Way
Sacramento CA 9582

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