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BIA decision allowing Shakopees to put land into trust opposed

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SHAKOPEE, Minn. (AP) - The Shakopee City Council voted unanimously Oct. 29 to appeal a BIA ruling that says the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community can transfer about 750 acres it owns into a tax-exempt trust.

The vote came just hours after Scott County officials decided not to appeal the ruling, saying they'd rather negotiate with the tribe than pursue litigation.

The tribe, which owns the popular Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, has been seeking unfettered use of its land for years. Glynn A. Crooks, vice chairman of the SMSC, said the tribe plans to use the land primarily for homes for members.

City Administrator Mike McNeill called the appeal ''a necessary step,'' noting that Oct. 29 was the deadline for filing an appeal. However, McNeill said the city is willing to discuss the issue with the tribe and remains open to a negotiated settlement.

McNeill said the SMSC has increased its pace of acquiring land within the city and made it clear that it will continue to acquire land in Shakopee without consulting with the city about plans for the land or how it will be used.

In October, the tribe purchased an additional 320 acres in eastern Shakopee that the city had earmarked for other uses. Including those acres, the SMSC controls a third of the remaining potentially developable land within the city, he said.

''These most recent acquisitions, and the likelihood that the SMSC will apply to have the lands placed in trust, make it strategically difficult, if not impossible, for the city to plan for important public infrastructure and services,'' McNeill added.

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Crooks said he found it ''extremely upsetting'' but wasn't surprised by the city's decision to appeal.

''I think it's unfortunate that they will now have to expend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting an appeal that they have to know they could probably not win,'' he said.

''I think they've had every opportunity to negotiate a settlement. There's no law that says we have to give them a penny. We've given millions of dollars into the local economy and we don't have to do that,'' Crooks added.

Earlier Oct. 29, Scott County voted 3 - 2 against appealing, said Barbara Marschall, chairman of the county board of commissioners. The decision came down to opting to work with the tribe and move forward, rather than face lengthy and costly litigation.

''I don't think there's any doubt that the commissioners took this very seriously and weighed all of their options,'' said County Administrator David Unmacht. ''It's a very difficult decision. We've been involved in this for more than a decade. ... Our hope is that our relationship with the tribe is strong enough where we can [work] together.''

Crooks said the tribe was very pleased with the county's decision and looks forward to working with the county board.

The land in question had generated about $65,000 a year in property taxes for the county. But the county had said previously that local governments stood to lose an estimated $2.9 million a year in revenues if the tribe developed the land as proposed and if the land became tax-exempt.

Unmacht said county officials hope to negotiate ways in which the tribe could compensate the county for the work it provides on county roadways and other services.