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On behalf of the Mohegan Tribal Council, I write in response to Montville Town Councilor Rosetta Jones' June 11 commentary, "Tribal Cultural Property zone could block housing plan," about the proposed Villages housing project, and her claim that our tribe will "suffocate any future economic development." On development, in fact, a look at the record will show that the opposite is true. The Mohegan Tribe has built water, gas, and improved sewer lines along Route 32 both for our benefit and for the benefit and growth of the entire corridor.
At issue is the proposed construction of 120 units of affordable housing on a parcel of land known as Fort Hill that has considerable historic and cultural significance to the Mohegan Tribe, and includes a fort and other landmarks established by Sachem Uncas. The federal and state archaeological review of this site was triggered because the developer is seeking state and federal financial assistance in order to develop the site. This action triggered an archaeological review as mandated by law. The Mohegan Tribe did not request the review.
The review process further resulted in a proposed tribal cultural boundary, which, even if approved, would have no effect on any commercial development without public assistance. It would also have no effect on anyone's home despite rumors to the contrary. In fact, the law mandates environmental and archaeological reviews when state or federal assistance is involved, whether or not the proposed tribal cultural boundary is approved. Also, despite the ominous tone of Ms. Jones' essay, a tribal cultural boundary can only be added to the National Register with the consent of a majority of property owners within the boundary as well as the approval of the state and the National Park Service.
It has been widely known for decades that this property has significant historic preservation and cultural value to the Mohegan Tribe and in past years the developer has made repeated offers to sell the property to the Tribe for many times its market value.
Is the developer really interested in building affordable housing, or in holding this Mohegan sacred site hostage for the biggest payoff possible?
The Mohegan Tribe has been a neighbor, friend and ally to this region for many generations. We should be working together to preserve the fort of Uncas, for whom the borough of Uncasville is named and, in the spirit of Uncas, be working together to find affordable housing for all the residents of Montville.
Bruce "Two Dogs" Bozsum is chairman of the Mohegan Tribe.