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http://www.oregonlive.com:80/news/index.ssf/2008/08/is_there_a_big_casino_in_frenc.html
Is there a big casino in French Prairie's future?

by Dana Tims, The Oregonian

Followed by: S. Ore. tribal group eyes Willamette tract

August 24, 2008

A megacasino just south of the Willamette River on Oregon's historic French Prairie is either in the works or completely off the table, depending on who is doing the talking.

A series of letters and meetings regarding potential commercial and industrial development in the area has land-use advocates concerned that the rural landscape stretching from Wilsonville south to Salem could, sooner rather than later, be altered forever.

A megacasino just south of the Willamette River on Oregon's historic French Prairie is either in the works or completely off the table, depending on who is doing the talking.

A series of letters and meetings regarding potential commercial and industrial development in the area has land-use advocates concerned that the rural landscape stretching from Wilsonville south to Salem could, sooner rather than later, be altered forever.

"If you are looking at either a 400-acre trucking distribution center or a huge casino there, the options are between horrendous and outrageous," said Ben Williams, spokesman for Friends of French Prairie, which opposes large-scale industrial development south of the Willamette. "Pick your poison, it's either cyanide or arsenic."

Chris Maletis, who with his brother, Tom, owns much of the land in question, said Williams' group and others are using scare tactics when they claim the Klamath Tribes are trying to gain approval to build a huge casino and related facilities in northern French Prairie.

"I don't know how many times we have to tell them that there is absolutely nothing related to a casino being planned for this area," Maletis said. "They are throwing up nothing but a smoke screen and they know it."

Maletis acknowledged, however, that the Chiloquin-based Klamath are working to acquire as trust land acreage near his Langdon Farms Golf Course for eventual conversion to commercial and perhaps industrial uses.

"We're definitely in discussions," he said. "Just where those will lead, we're not sure yet."

Although interpretations differ, the tribes are relying on federal legislation, the Klamath Indian Tribe Restoration Act of 1986, to make the case that they can take the Maletises' property "into trust" and use it for economic development purposes.

Opponents of the move have scheduled a Thursday town hall meeting at the Hubbard Fire Hall to discuss what they are calling "a casino at Langdon Farms."

This is hardly the first time that controversy has attended efforts to extend development south of the Willamette River past Wilsonville.

Many trace the seeds of Oregon's statewide land-use planning system to Wilsonville's residential Charbonneau district. When key legislators saw hundreds of houses being built south of the river in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they moved quickly to enact sweeping laws aimed at protecting prime farm and forestland -- such as the agricultural tracts stretching across French Prairie -- from wholesale development.

Apart from any deal the Klamath and the Maletis brothers may be trying to work out, French Prairie is the focus of other contentious planning efforts as well.

The "core four" of Washington, Clackamas and Multnomah counties and the Metro regional government are studying where to designate lands for future development. French Prairie may or may not ultimately be included in areas needed to accommodate houses and jobs for the estimated 2 million people projected to move to the metro area by 2060.

That planning process isn't expected to be completed for another six months.

In the meantime, all attention is now being devoted to what the Klamath may or may not do in the area, which remains widely regarded as the heart of Oregon's agricultural industry.

In May, after a meeting between tribal representatives and the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, BIA officials sent a letter spelling out what the tribe needed to do to take the land around Langdon Farms into trust.

The letter alarmed Williams and others because it promised an expedited process and seemed to indicate the tribe might have little problem taking land that is 200 miles from the Klamath reservation into trust.

Mike Kohlhoff, Wilsonville city attorney, followed up with a letter of his own. His nine-page legal opinion asserted that the BIA's interpretation of the federal regulations vastly overstated what the tribes could actually do.

Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehan, long an opponent of development south of the river, agreed.

"If they could just buy land anywhere and have it be tribal land," she said, "why not just go right into the heart of Portland and buy the convention center?"

Tribal Chairman Joseph Kirk has sent a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs expressly stating that, whatever else the tribe may have in mind for the property, it does not intend to build a casino there.

"There's some conjecture on our part, sure," Friends of French Prairie's Williams said. "It may be a big if, but if profit's the motive, you can make a lot more money short and long term with a casino than with a bunch of concrete tilt-up buildings."

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http://www.oregonlive.com/newsflash/index.ssf?/base/news-26/1219680588242950.xml&storylist=orlocal

S. Ore. tribal group eyes Willamette tract
8/25/2008  Oregonian

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) A Southern Oregon tribe and a landowner in the rich Willamette Valley farm region called French Prairie are talking about a deal that could make a large tract part of tribal territory but both sides insist a casino is not in the cards.

The landscape that stretches south of the Willamette River from Wilsonville to Salem has long figured in Oregon land-use decisions.

When legislators saw hundreds of houses being built south of the river in the late 1960s and early 1970s for the Charbonneau development they quickly enacted sweeping statewide laws to protect prime farm and forestland.

Chris Maletis acknowledges that the Chiloquin-based Klamath Tribes are working to acquire as trust land acreage near his Langdon Farms Golf Course for eventual conversion to commercial and perhaps industrial uses, but not a casino.

Tribal Chairman Joseph Kirk has sent a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs saying that, whatever else the tribe may have in mind for the property, it does not intend to build a casino.

That hasn't convinced some, who worry that the agricultural core of Oregon will be changed forever.

"If you are looking at either a 400-acre trucking distribution center or a huge casino there, the options are between horrendous and outrageous," said Ben Williams, spokesman for Friends of French Prairie. "Pick your poison: It's either cyanide or arsenic."

Development opponents plan a meeting Thursday at a local fire hall on what they call "a casino at Langdon Farms."

In May, after a meeting with tribal representatives, bureau officials sent a letter spelling out what the tribe needed to do to take the land around Langdon Farms into trust.

The letter alarmed Williams and others because it promised an expedited process and seemed to indicate the tribe might have little problem taking control of land that is 200 miles from its headquarters.

Mike Kohlhoff, Wilsonville city attorney, produced an opinion saying the bureau had vastly overstated what the tribes could actually do.

Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehan, long an opponent of development south of the river, agreed.

"If they could just buy land anywhere and have it be tribal land," she said, "why not just go right into the heart of Portland and buy the convention center?"
 

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