BARSTOW — The biggest question in Barstow still remains unanswered: Will the proposed Indian Casino in Lenwood ever get built?
Meanwhile, another major development has already risen from the ground next to the present Wal-Mart. Construction of the Super Wal-Mart has been underway for months and is expected to open next summer.
As 2016 closes, the Desert Dispatch looks into 2017 and beyond with five top developments.
LENWOOD INDIAN CASINO
A renewal of the municipal services agreement in June between the city, Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians and Barwest, L.L.C. was the last reported development in this project that was first proposed 10 years ago.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is working on the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians fee-to-trust application to build the casino. The Bureau of Indian Affairs recently released the draft Conformity Determination for the project acquisition of 23 acres of land.
The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians propose to construct a gaming facility, hotel, parking areas and other facilities in Lenwood. Because this request is for land to be taken into trust for gaming purposes, the tribe has submitted an application under the Indian Reorganization Act and seeks a determination of gaming eligibility under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
The project is apparently on the final leg in the two-part determination, which would ensure the project is in the best interest of the tribe and surrounding community. The whole process has lasted more than a decade.
The municipal services agreement requires all tribal development projects occurring on the Trust Lands be used and developed in a manner that is consistent with the Barstow Municipal Code.
"We understand there isn’t a set timeline for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to make a two-part determination, but we’re certainly hopeful that a decision will be made soon," City spokesman Anthony Riley said. "We continue to work with the Los Coyotes tribe and their representatives to help make this project a reality."
Heather Sibbison with the Denton's Native American Law and Policy practice represents the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians. She told the Desert Dispatch in March that a decision could be made by the end of year. But that doesn't look like likely now.
"They are reviewing the application in the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) in Sacramento and we think they are going to be pretty close to being done there. Then they will make a recommendation to the central office in Washington," Sibbison said.
The construction of the Super Wal-Mart at Montara Road and East Main Street is causing some inconveniences for motorists.
City Counsulting City Engineer Brad Merrell reported at the Dec. 19 City Council meeting that traffic will be flowing in one lane with flagging. The road will be open nights and weekends.
Laying of new asphalt is being delayed because of the cold temperatures.
Merrell told the City Planning Commission in October the new building should be ready by May or June. He said that would give Wal-Mart a month to transfer everything from the present store to the new building.
"Once that is done, they will demolish the old building. That will bring us in compliance," Merrell said.
Economic Development and Planning Manager Gaither Loewenstein told the commission eight retail pads are located where the present store stands.
"Although there are letters of intent being signed with retailers now, the actual construction — most of those would occur until after the existing Wal-Mart is demolished. The Super Wal-Mart is opening the summer of 2017 and my suspicion would be the following summer for the additional retailers," Loewenstein said.
BARSTOW FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT
It appears the Barstow Fire Protection District Board of Directors may have to make some hard decisions in 2017. The board held a workshop Dec. 19.
Acting Fire Chief Jamie Williams and Assistant City Manager Cindy Prothro presented an in-depth report that included a PowerPoint presentation.
The report showed revenues are still lagging expenses and there is a mounting pension problem. The 2016-17 budget showed $4.363 million in revenues and $4.535 million in expenses.
Williams said the level of fire service delivery minimally meets current operational needs. She also said the cost of the current fire service delivery is predicted to increase based on continual rising retirement contribution rates. The district's contribution is capped at 42 percent, but the employee's contribution rate exceeds 40 percent with future increases predicted by the San Bernardino County Employees' Retirement Association (SBCERA), whose determination of the district's unfunded liability is increasing.
During public comments, firefighter John Wymore said the district is "broken and bankrupt."
Wymore urged the board to enter serious talks with San Bernardino County Fire District to take over the Barstow district.
SPANISH TRAILS SPECIFIC PLAN
Joseph Brady with the Bradco Companies and Malcolm Riley joined forces in 2013 to present the Spanish Trail Specific Plan to the City Council. The development of 112 acres will include an 801,100-square-foot shopping center that will be located along Avenue L.
The development may feature as many as 40 to 50 retail tenants.
Approximately 58 acres in the project site is owned by the State Lands Commission and the Bureau of Land Management. BLM is transferring its land to the State Lands Commission. Brady reported earlier this month that negotiations to determine purchasing and/or leasing terms with the State Lands Commission are progressing.
BARSTOW UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Upgrades and repairs to the buildings in the Barstow Unified School District will take place in the near future after a $39 million bond measure was approved by voters in the Nov. 8 general election.
The school district will begin the process of building a Fine Arts Academy in 2017. Demolition is expected soon of the former Barstow Intermediate School at 500 Avenue G. State budget cuts forced the district to close the intermediate school in 2009. Over the years the school, which opened in 1957, has been a target of vandalism, thefts and even arson.
A $14 million insurance settlement was reached earlier. Construction of the new school will soon follow the demolition, according to school officials.
Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-957-0613 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @mlambdispatch.