Tribal vote 63 votes short on referendum

Warm Springs voters may see a new referendum on a motorsports complex following the tribes' favorable May 21 vote, which fell 63 votes short of a valid election.

According to Jeff Anspach, of Terrebonne, chief operations officer for Warm Springs Ventures, which looks for economic development opportunities on the reservation, there were 526 votes favoring the motorsports project, and 468 votes against the project. The referendum required that 1,057 voters participate — one-third of the eligible voters — but only 994 tribal members voted.

The purpose of the tribal referendum was "to see if they were interested in a large-scale project that would require a large land base," said Anspach.

If it had passed, the tribes would have worked in conjunction with Lionshead Developers, based out of Florida, North Carolina and Oregon, to develop the motorsports complex on a 1,000-acre site at Miller Flat, just south of Mill Creek, off U.S. Highway 26.

The developers were primarily looking for support for the idea. "There wasn't a lot of work done upfront," Anspach explained. "If the tribes would support the concept, we would perform a lot more due diligence."

After efforts to locate such a facility in Boardman, and a couple other places, he said, "They've kind of decided the only way a new facility's going to be built is in Indian country. It's trickier off the reservation, going through public comments; it can add years and millions of dollars."

The facility would feature all forms of motorsports, including a road course, oval track, drag strip and dirt track, as well as recreational vehicle camping and a travel center.

A preliminary estimate of the cost of the facility was about $230 million, with infrastructure. It was expected to employ about 850 people in construction and operation, in addition to creating other jobs.

The Warm Springs Tribal Council was expected to decide whether or not to go out for another referendum on the motorsports complex at its June 4 meeting.

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