By JONAH LOSSIAH
One Feather Staff
A land acquisition deal for a 142-acre property in Cherokee County was tabled for further discussion at the Thursday, July 8 Tribal Council session.
The purchase price is $285,000 and is made up by two parcels owned by Ricky Joe Stiles, Wanda E. Stiles, Charles Bryant, and Donna Bryant.
Resolution No. 543 (2021) was submitted by the Lands Acquisition Committee, and Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley was there to speak before Council on the request. Ensley was also the one that originally presented the property to the Lands Acquisition Committee for consideration. It was reviewed and submitted to Council for approval.
Vice Chief Ensley answered a few short questions on the property, clarifying that there were buildable sites on the land and that the purchase price was the tax value of the property. Wolftown Rep. Bo Crowe also asked what the plans were for the land.
“I believe I’ve mentioned it to [Chairperson Adam Wachacha and Rep. Bucky Brown], we need to come up with a land management plan or a land use plan for this whole property,” said Ensley.
The property in question is adjacent to the Mundy Mill property that was previously purchased by the Tribe. As mentioned in Council on Thursday, that property was a possible location for what became the River Valley Casino. Chairperson Adam Wachacha explained that land is deeded and could not fall into trust land, and this is the primary reason for the Tribe not using the Mundy Mill property for a casino.
Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell insisted that the there be a plan ready for the property by the time of purchase.
“We buy a lot of property, and a lot of property is sitting there getting land rich. But we need to have a plan. I think we need to look at this whole property acquisition that we’re doing, and it should be planned. Rather than here or there, or ‘I want to sell y’all a piece of my property up here it’s connected to where y’all are at.’ It should be more than that. It should be a planned, targeted, aimed acquisition to bring benefit to our people,” said Rep. Shell.
“I think with the dwindling resources that we’re facing, it needs to be a planned acquisition with a goal. These type of purchases…what are we going to do with it? What have we built with it already? We were supposed to be for a casino. That didn’t happen and it’s just been sitting there ever since. Are we going to do the same thing now? Pay taxes on it,” continued Rep. Shell.
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke agreed with Rep. Shell.
“There’s already a resolution that addresses that, Perry. Back in the day. You’re supposed to have that plan in place before we purchase,” said Rep. Saunooke.
Chairperson Wachacha said that more needed to be discussed on the land, and he also offered a few options for how it could be used.
“Well, I did know of a plan, but I don’t know if it’s designated for this property. I know that Mundy Mill, the hospital – I’ve walked it with Bucky – and we need a new clinic over there and we’re looking for a site. And the sitting legislation for assisted living is also sitting on the table too, it’s never had any action on it,” said Chairperson Wachacha.
Vice Chief Ensley was focused on the financial aspect of the deal, and he made the case for securing the price that was already given to them. He also argued that it is significantly more difficult to expend resources to come up with a plan if property is not already owned by the Tribe.
“I was the one that brought it to Land Acquisition, because Steve Coleman asked me to. But it was at tax value, and you can’t buy land no cheaper than that.”
Jay Gallagher from the Office of the Attorney General was also there to offer information when needed. He clarified that this proposal was unanimously passed by the Land Acquisition Committee on May 8.
Despite Ensley’s efforts, Tribal Council sided with caution and voted unanimously to table this resolution. Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle and other members of Council remarked that it would be valuable to get stakeholders out to the property to walk the land and discuss options before the next vote.
The next date for Tribal Council is set for Thursday, Aug. 5.