Stillaguamish Tribe expands lands

ARLINGTON With the success of its two-year-old casino, the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians is acquiring more lands, as a means of centralizing its government and conserving natural resources.
Shana Swanson, enterprise board president of the Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, estimated the Tribes lands at more than 500 acres, but added that many of those lands are scattered in small parcels throughout North Snohomish County.
For Stillaguamish Tribal Chair Shawn Yanity, one of the primary purposes of the Tribes expansion of its lands is to make them more convenient and efficient to manage.
It was harder to buy lands before the casino, since we didnt have that source of income, Yanity said. Were trying to centralize them, so that theyll be easier to serve and govern.
As such, Yanity explained that many of the Tribes planned land acquisitions would be additions to their existing lands.
He elaborated that the Tribes expansions place an equally high priority on conservation, citing their lands around Exit 210 of I-5 as an example.
Weve rehabilitated the northwest corner of that property into habitat for wintering birds, like the blue heron, said Yanity, who expressed interest in turning a parcel bordering the 16-acre lower park into a similar conservation area.
Yanity believes that such land acquisitions would give programs such as BankSavers room to grow, and hopes the Tribe might be able to establish a buffalo ranch eventually.
He noted that the Tribe has met with the city of Arlington, Snohomish County and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to research possible expansions, especially to explore where the Tribes clinics and other services might benefit the community.
Turning to Tribal entertainment thats used by the surrounding community, Angel of the Winds General Manager Travis ONeil reported that the casinos current area of 22,000-square-feet could be expanded by approximately 30,000 additional square feet, bringing it closer to its originally planned size of 45,000-square-feet.
Its a natural growth pattern to meet the demand, said ONeil, who anticipated that the planned expansion of the casinos parking lot and gaming area, as well as the possible addition of a family restaurant, would meet the facilitys current and future needs.
Although Yanity stated that the Tribe is committed to preserving local farmland, he acknowledged that the Tribe has drawn back from involvement in the legal disputes over the agriculturally designated Island Crossing site that could be rezoned for commercial purposes.
Yanity assured the Tribes neighbors that theyre not looking to buy from any property owners who dont wish to sell, while disputing the perceptions of a number of non-Tribal members.
People say, Oh, the Tribes dont pay taxes, Yanity said. Tribal members pay property taxes, unless they live on Tribal lands, and even then, they still pay income taxes. Purchases on Tribal lands are sales tax exempt, but the Tribes are still operating their own governments and paying for services like health care. The Tribes have had to get very good at meeting their own needs.
At the same time, Yanity pointed out the ways in which the Tribe has helped meet the needs of its neighbors, such as donating to several non-tribal, non-profit and charitable organizations, as well as distributing casino impact monies to state and county law enforcement and emergency response agencies.
According to Yanity, the Tribe also recently reached a mitigation agreement with Snohomish County Fire Protection District 18, to pay the agency a levy rate of approximately $17,000 a year for their services.

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