Big Sandy has lost its water supply to a rival tribe and was told by federal officials that it can’t move the Friant-area property into its rancheria borders. And, earlier this month, a company sued Big Sandy because it claims the tribe failed to fully reimburse it for work related to the resort project.
The tribe operates the 349-slot Mono Wind Casino near Auberry. It has been working for more than a decade to build the new resort.
The property for the proposed resort is about 12 miles away from the Auberry rancheria.
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Big Sandy leadership remains optimistic that the 41-acre resort plan with a 221-room hotel with restaurants, a 70,000-square-foot casino, 2,000 gaming machines and 30 to 40 table games, such as poker, can still come to fruition. The project’s price tag is $100 million to $150 million.
“It is not dead,” said Elizabeth Kipp, the tribal council chairwoman.
Tribal leaders were discouraged by a decision earlier this year from the federal Interior Board of Indian Appeals when it opposed the tribe’s efforts to bring the land near the Table Mountain Rancheria into the tribe’s boundaries.
The land is not part of the Big Sandy rancheria. But the property also is not considered an “off-reservation” project because it’s owned by a tribe member willing to sell or lease.
The tribe is exploring other options for making property part of its rancheria even though it’s only about a half-mile from Table Mountain Rancheria and its gaming venue.
Previously, Big Sandy’s land proposal had been rejected by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs before it was appealed. In its response to the tribe, the appeals board said jurisdictional and environmental documentation remain as issues in Big Sandy’s request that aren’t yet settled.
41Number of acres for proposed Big Sandy project
Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed against Big Sandy in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. The suit claims the tribe failed to fully refund its casino project developer for money it had advanced. The developer, Brownstone LLC, claims it is owed $572,699 by the tribe.
The loans started in 2007 and totaled $1,055,000. A portion of the loans were paid back by a financing firm.
Table Mountain officials oppose the casino project site because it’s archaeologically sensitive and doesn’t have water, which is why Big Sandy planned to truck water in from the Flyin’ J Ranch, north of Auberry.
But the Flyin’ J Ranch water plan was short-circuited when Table Mountain Rancheria bought it in a foreclosure sale. The Flyin’ J Ranch includes Johnston Field Airport on Powerhouse Road, and its surrounding 190 acres.
Table Mountain Rancheria’s purchase of the Flyin’ J Ranch was something “we had no control over,” Kipp said. “We have other plans for (a) water source.”
The land was bought for about $2.2 million, according to Fresno County assessor records.
Assessor Paul Dictos said the land will be removed from the tax rolls because it was bought by the tribe. Vicki Crow, Fresno County’s treasurer-tax collector, said Table Mountain Rancheria officials paid $35,000 in delinquent taxes.