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Our View: Meeting over Baltimore Ravine Project a good first step

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Much to our delight the printed word once again flexed its muscle as it shined the light on a topic important to the community and promoted open discussion – even if it didn’t originate in the pages of the Journal this time.
The missives in question were a series of anonymous letters highlighting the involvement of the United Auburn Indian Community in what is the last significant piece of undeveloped land within city limits.
The letter ascertained that the UAIC was the actual owners of the Baltimore Ravine Development – a project that would include 270 housing units and 54.5 acres of open space in its first phase.
While there might have been some Chicken Little talk – “there’s going to be a casino any day now” – in the letter, it was important for the community to know who really owns that land.
This letter and others forced the United Auburn Indian Community and the City of Auburn to come together and create an open line of communication. The two sides met on Feb. 22 for what was reportedly a “productive” and “encouraging” meeting.
We applaud the gesture and ask that this not be the only meeting, but that a continual dialogue will exist between the city and UAIC, and that the public’s fears and concerns are always addressed. It’s a good first step, but much more can be done to create a sense of trust and transparency.
While the UAIC bristled at the thought of its acquisition of the Baltimore Ravine project being labeled a secret land deal, we can understand some of the alarmist talk by the letter writer and the concerns of the City Council.
Using a limited liability company (LLC) without a hint of the UAIC name in it, and the original owner of the development, Roseville’s Stephen Des Jardins, not mentioning the tribe to property owners involved in the project creates the perception of a hush-hush deal.
While the UAIC cites price control for the use of the LLC, the question must be raised, would the public, or the city, ever have known of the community’s involvement if it wasn’t for these letters?
Another concern brought up was that the UAIC was planning to put the Baltimore Ravine property into a trust, making it sovereign land and allowing the community to do whatever it pleased with the parcel – hence the-sky-is-falling casino talk.
After taking a rational look at the situation, putting another casino so close to Thunder Valley doesn’t really make economic sense for the tribe.
And if they were planning on putting that property into trust, the City of Auburn would already be aware. However, don’t rule out the possibility of the tribe doing that at some point down the line.
And that’s where it all comes back — to a level of transparency between the two sides.
“Part of a good neighbor policy would be to communicate with the city on what their intentions are,” Mayor Kevin Hanley told the Journal in a previous story over the land. “I think that would be helpful to the city and helpful to the residents. What is the future of the Baltimore Ravine area, this huge last undeveloped section of town? What is the future?”
The UAIC isn’t talking all that much about what’s next for the Baltimore Ravine parcel. Since the letters emerged, the tribe has been fairly mum on the subject – the hour-long meeting with City Manager Bob Richardson not withstanding. And that’s where we get a little nervous again.
But hopefully, this first meeting has laid the groundwork for an era of cooperation, and we ask for more public dialogue when it’s comes to this parcel – because after all, we are neighbors.