By Ed Martin, Editor
Lemoore City Council approves sales tax measure, 362-homes adjacent to West Hills College

The Lemoore City Council voted on a pair of critical issues that could very well have a significant future impact on the community and its citizens. Council members – by identical 3-1 votes – ordered a one percent sales tax placed on the November general election ballot,  and then later in the nearly three-hour meeting, approved a controversial housing development, setting aside Naval Air Station Lemoore’s concerns regarding encroachment and aircraft noise.

Only Mayor Eddie Neal voted against both controversial items, leaving councilmembers Stuart Lyons, Chris Schalde, and John Plourde to carry the day. Tuesday’s action comes just 21 days after council members set aside the controversial housing project by not voting, leaving the project in limbo.

Earlier in the council session, another 3-1 vote approved the placement of a one percent sales and use tax on the November General Election ballot. Again, Neal voted against the measure. The three remaining council members voted to allow the public to decide.

While several speakers bemoaned the specific tax, Plourde opined that ultimately it’s up to the public to decide if they want to pass a one percent tax to fund Lemoore’s police and fire departments.

“I think there were some good ideas tonight,” he said. “It’s the people’s decision whether we have a tax, not ours. We are going to give the people an opportunity to have their say depending on the outcome of the resolution.”

Plourde suggested that without additional income, shrinking city coffers could very well mean layoffs in the police department. “I don’t want to lay off anybody, but the goal is to keep our police services and fire services where they (currently) are.”

The best estimate of tax income ranges around $1.8 million annually from the specific tax. Any future funding is subject to a citizens’ oversight committee. The specific tax means that should voters approve it in November, all monies would go to support the Lemoore police and fire departments.

Councilmember Schalde also voted for the tax measure. “Let’s let you, the people of Lemoore, have the final say,” he said.

Earlier in the evening, Naval Air Station Lemoore’s commanding officer, Capt. Doug Peterson returned to the council dais to repeat the navy’s concerns regarding encroachment and noise as council members considered the 362-home housing project near West Hills Community College.

“The Navy wishes to reiterate its concerns about this potential development,” which Peterson said is incompatible with development and would inevitably subject individuals to higher aircraft noise. He suggested that the city of Lemoore and the navy work together. “At the end of the day, we’re all going to have to work on this together,” he said.

Plourde wondered aloud what action was in the best interest of Lemoore – near term and long term. “That’s what we have to think about,” as he made the initial motion to approve the development.

Stuart Lyons second the motion, and it passed 3-1, only Neal voting against it.

“I want to speak my peace,” said Neal before casting his vote. “I’m looking at this, and I’m saying, you know once again, I’m going to side with the military. I vote no just because every time I go to Save Mart, any time I go anywhere, I see Virginia license tags, Indiana license tags, and Mississippi license tags. They really brought this city up, brought Kings County up, Tulare County up, and brought Fresno County up, and I vote no.”

The housing project, as envisioned by Lennar Homes, would build 362 single-family homes directly east of the West Hills College campus. For years, U.S. Navy officials have warned city leaders that building west of the college could create issues with encroachment and jet noise.

At the council’s June 16 meeting, navy leaders reinforced their concerns regarding noise by flying jets directly over the downtown area and the Lemoore City Council chambers.


Lemoore City Council approves sales tax measure, 362-homes adjacent to West Hills College