U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell ruled June 30 that H.B. 2534, an Arizona law that would have allowed the City of Glendale to annex Tohono O'odham Nation land at the southwest corner of 95th and Northern avenues, was unconstitutional and in direct violation of federal law. In his decision, Campbell wrote, "H.B. 2534's clear purpose and effect would be to block DOI (Department of Interior) from taking the land into trust, contrary to the express command of Congress."
The issue goes back to January 2009, when the Nation applied to DOI to place 135 acres of land into trust under the Gila Bend Reservation Lands Replacement Act (GBRLRA). It was the first step by the Nation to create a resort and casino on the land.
The U.S. Department of Interior announced in July 2010 that Tohono O'odham's application for reservation status for the land had been approved and was in the process of taking the land into trust. But the state, city and senate representatives in Washington, D.C. said they would continue their fight to stop construction of the casino.
Oct. 28, a suit was filed by 12 state legislators against the DOI. March 3, 2011, Campbell ruled in favor of the Tohono O'odham and the DOI's decision to take the land into trust.
May 3, 2011, Campbell ruled again in favor of the Nation and ordered payment of its attorney fees and court costs.
Tohono O'odham representatives said the June 30 decision "is the latest in a string of rulings in which the courts have repeatedly found that the Nation has the right to take lands it owns into trust. The Nation intends to construct the West Valley Resort on this property which will create 6,000 construction jobs, more than 3,000 permanent jobs and $300 million in annual economic development in the West Valley."
The Tohono O'odham spokespersons said, "In addition to four favorable court rulings, federal and regional agencies have found in the Nation's favor on three other occasions. These repeated findings for the Nation are clear evidence that Glendale and other opponents are using the courts in their misguided efforts to delay this important economic development project."
Tohono O'odham Nation Tribal Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said, "With yet another decision in favor of the Nation, further litigation by Glendale and others serves only to waste limited taxpayer dollars. It is time for Glendale leaders to come to the table with the Nation to resolve our differences and work together to the benefit of our communities."
Julie Frisoni, Deputy City Manager for Marketing and Communications, said, "We are currently reviewing the opinion and will take any necessary actions."
Upon completion, the Nation has said repeatedly the West Valley Resort will draw 1.2 million people to the West Valley each year and have a $300 million annual economic impact. The Nation said more than 9,000 jobs will be created during the construction of the facility and the day-to-day operations. Nation representatives said more information on the Tohono O'odham Nation, the West Valley Resort and the history behind the project can be found by visiting its website at www.westvalleyopportunity.com.