(CN) – A California appeals court has reinstated a casino agreement between the city of Richmond, Calif., and a local band of Pomo Indians, saying the deal doesn’t require environmental review.
In December 2006, the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians agreed to pay Richmond $8.2 million for fire protection, police and public works projects in return for approval of a 225,000 square-foot casino on 30 acres. The 20-year agreement also called for the tribal band to pay the city several million annually to continue operation.
The Parchester Village Neighborhood Council and some East Bay environmental groups sued, claiming the city needed to conduct an environmental review before approving the casino.
The trial court casino agreed that the casino qualified as a project subject to environmental review and found Richmond in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The First Appellate District in San Francisco, however, ruled that the casino is not a project, because it’s slated to be built outside city boundaries, where the city has no legal authority.
“While the municipal services agreement does indicate that the city agreed to support the tribe’s efforts to acquire the land and to obtain the requisite approvals from the (Bureau of Indian Affairs) and the Governor, this expression of support does not transform the casino into a ‘project’ so as to trigger” environmental review, Justice Robert Dondero wrote.
The city’s endorsement of the tribe’s efforts to build a casino does not automatically make it a city project, he added. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that the contract “paints the agency into a corner.”
The plaintiffs further claimed that firehouse plans for the casino would affect the physical environment, prompting review, but Dondero said the plans were “simply too vague to trigger CEQA review.”