The Redding Rancheria has filed a lawsuit against the city of Redding and Shasta Land Holdings LLC, saying the city improperly sold city-owned land off Interstate 5 to the private group, a move that could “kill” the tribe’s plan to relocate its Win-River Resort and Casino to its Sacramento River-front property in south Redding.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Shasta County Superior Court.
Redding Rancheria said the council met in closed session earlier this year to declare the city-owned land to be surplus and sell it to the limited liability corporation. The LLC has connections to Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson, the billionaire founder of lumber company Sierra Pacific Industries, Tribal Attorney Mike Hollowell said.
Carolyn Emmerson Dietz — Red Emmerson's daughter — is manager of Shasta Land Holdings, LCC and president of Sierra Pacific Foundation, Hollowell said.
In a statement, the Redding Rancheria said it "believes the City of Redding has tried to kill the tribe's Casino Relocation project. By selling this public property to a private entity with deep pockets, the City of Redding is trying to prevent commercial access to the Tribe's I-5 property, which could prove detrimental to the viability of the Casino Relocation Project."
The property recently sold is located just north of the tribe's land, near the Churn Creek Bottom area, where it plans to relocate the Win-River casino.
The council declared city-owned property located near the tribe's holdings to be exempt surplus land and sold it in mid-May, Hollowell said.
According to the lawsuit, the land sold by the city also includes a 310-foot-long section of Bechelli Lane — the entryway to the tribe's property.
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With the land's ownership now in private hands, Hollowell said, "the City wanted to limit our access and only provide an easement that would be held by the private owner" and be restricted to agriculture-related access.
Should the federal government approve the tribe's application for the casino's relocation, commercial access from Bechelli Lane would not be possible because of that restriction, said Hollowell. The new owner now has "sole discretion to relocate or modify the easement," the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also alleges that the city improperly approved the land's sale without giving the tribe notice, without providing an opportunity for the tribe to be heard and without public debate.
Reached Thursday, Redding City Attorney Barry DeWalt said: "I can’t comment on pending litigation. When litigation has commenced, we need to keep our comments confined to that which we file in the courts."
Sierra Pacific spokeswoman Andrea Howell said on Thursday that "Sierra Pacific does not own Shasta Land Holdings, so we have no comment."
Representatives for Shasta Land Holdings LLC could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
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Earlier this year, Emmerson emerged as a prominent opponent to the tribe's casino relocation proposal, which the federal government must ultimately approve. He had expressed concern that an expanded casino-entertainment resort would usher in noise, crime and traffic congestion to what's now a semi-rural community.
The Sacramento River-front home and 500-acre ranch and agricultural land owned by Emmerson and his wife share a property line with the tribe's I-5 holdings.
In a letter sent to the government, Emmerson wrote that “the proposed casino will have substantial negative impacts not only on my property, but also to the community and greater Shasta County without any corresponding benefits."
The Bureau of Indian Affairs will make the final decision on whether the tribally-owned property is placed into trust of the federal government so gambling can occur.
In addition to Emmerson, thousands of residents, the Speak Up Shasta community opposition group and both the Redding City Council and Shasta County Board of Supervisors sent letters opposing the proposed casino development.
Facing that resistance, the tribe announced in early May that it had temporarily put the environmental review process for the new complex "on pause" until later this year.
At that time, a statement from the tribe said: "We believe that the city and county’s opposition to the project has caused concern among federal decision makers within the Trump administration and may prove insurmountable."
Redding Rancheria CEO Tracy Edwards said at the time: "Once we un-pause later this year, we will be in a better position to identify the timeline for finishing the environmental review process.”
Michele Chandler covers city government and housing issues for the Redding Record Searchlight/USA Today Network. Follow her on Twitter at @MChandler_RS, call her at 530-225-8344 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please support our entire newsroom's commitment to public service journalism by subscribing today.
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