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Rancheria gets project OK

By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

After Del Norte County Supervisor Jack Reese got what he wanted from the Smith River Rancheria last week, the Rancheria got what it wanted from the county board this week.

In a 3-0 vote by the board yesterday, the Rancheria was granted a variance to use a six-acre residential parcel for a large leach field to replace a currently failing sewage system at the Lucky Seven Casino.

"I guess I'm the bad boy here that held things up, but I did that for a reason," said Reese during the public hearing for the Rancheria.

The board, pared to only three members as two of the members declared conflicts of interest, was expected to make its decision on the variance last week.

But to even hear the issue, all three eligible supervisors – Jack Reese, Martha McClure and Chuck Blackburn – were required to be there to form the minimum quorum.

At that first meeting last week, Reese disappeared into the chamber hallways making the vote impossible without bringing one of the conflicted supervisors, David Finigan or Clyde Eller, back on the board.

Later that day, Reese said he left because he didn't feel the tribe had explained their project to him thoroughly. But they had explained the project to Blackburn and McClure.

Reese said he felt the tribe was trying to blindside him and he wanted to stop them by taking away his needed vote.

The hearing was rescheduled for yesterday.

After his demonstration of dissatisfaction, Reese and the tribe met Friday to address all of his questions and concerns.

"I want to publicly thank the Rancheria for talking with me. I feel in the future, the Smith River Rancheria is going to be a good partner with the county of Del Norte.

"So I'm going to support this project," Reese said.

The Rancheria's project, located in Smith River just north of the casino, aroused fear in residents neighboring the parcel these last months.

About 10 residents living near the project said they didn't want a smelly, unsightly sewage facility that would drive down their property values.

Also in question was how the Rancheria would use the expanded system to serve new building projects such as a proposed hotel and laundry and a gas station.

Supervisor McClure, Rancheria officials and the professional engineering firm Winzler and Kelly presented evidence that the leach field would not smell, would not be visible under the grass and soil and that the parcel would never be used for anything but a leach field for several years to come.

Tribal Chair Kara Miller said she understood the residents' fears.

"If I lived next door, I would have been just as concerned and I would be sitting right where you're sitting today. But we will be a good neighbor," Miller said.

Rancheria officials personally thanked Reese after the hearing was over.

 


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