Members of the Tucson City Council signed off on a preliminary agreement for a proposed hotel and casino on land owned by the Pascua Yaqui tribe last Tuesday afternoon.
The 14.38-acre development, which would be located where once stood an old movie theater near the intersection of Grant Road and Interstate 10, would allow the tribe to build a hotel and casino on the site.
The tribe has owned the parcel since the theater closed in 2011, and has long sought to build on the property, which is located within the traditional Yaqui neighborhood of Old Pascua Village.
The tribe and the city have struck an Intergovernmental Agreement, which includes a set of stipulations for both parties, including for which city services the property would be eligible, and how the property would receive groundwater, should the development not be in compliance with city statues.
Pascua Yaqui Chairman Robert Valencia, in a prepared statement to the council, called the tribe’s Intergovernmental Agreement, which designates the land into a trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as being mutually beneficial to both parties.
“This agreement will provide a structure for the City and the Tribe to operate under if the federal government takes approximately 15 acres into trust [sic] for the Pascua Yaqui Tribe,” he said. “...Because these lands are located in Tucson, we think it is important that the City and the Tribe agree on how services and economic development will be handled if the lands are taken into trust. This Intergovernmental Agreement does just that—it lays out the roles and responsibilities of the City and the Tribe and establishes an Oversite Group that can help resolve areas of concern if they develop.”
In a statement, Tucson Ward 3 City Council member Paul Durham, whose district includes the area of the proposed development, said the two sides are far from a conclusion on the subject.
“The Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council and Chairman Valencia have not yet decided how to develop the land once it’s put into trust with the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Durham said. “That process alone may take years or even a decade. One, the land is in a trust, it will be up to the Tribal Council to decide how to develop the land. The land is currently significantly underutilized considering its prime location and I look forward to working with the Tribe in the future on this property.”
Durham pointed out that an item in the agreement includes stipulations on future discussions for gaming on the trust land, which include a 90-day alert to the adoption of a Tribal Resolution that green-lights any regulations or requirements needed to conduct gaming on the site, as a window into how the process might move forward.
In addition to the 90-day window, tribal leadership would have to notify the city one calendar year prior to opening a casino on the site, so the two sides can reach an agreement on how the tribe will pay the city proceeds from gaming sales, according to the document.
The item will now go to a full vote before the Council later this year, though the exact date of the final sign-off has not been disclosed.