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LEMOORE — The Lemoore City Council packed a lot into its regular meeting Tuesday, including votes to allow car sales in downtown, and the purchase of land for wastewater treatment projects.

In a public hearing during the council meeting, City Planner Steve Brandt went to council with a proposal to amend zoning to allow for the sale of new and used automobiles in the downtown area.

Currently, Brandt said there are no automobile sales happening inside the city limits, and he thinks this might be a way to drum-up interest. He said there is nothing formally pending right now, but there has been some interest from people wanting to put used car sales in that area.

Councilwoman Holly Blair told Brandt she wasn’t sure if automobile sales kept with the “spirit of downtown,” especially because downtown business owners pay extra fees in an effort to maintain a certain downtown aesthetic.

“Having a lot of used cars out is not necessarily within the intent of that spirit, I believe,” Blair said.

Brandt said traditionally, downtowns of cities have had car sales but Lemoore had moved away from that over the years. He said any car sales business would still require a conditional use permit and have to adhere to downtown design standards — like landscaping and an updated parking lot.

Blair asked Brandt why efforts weren’t aimed at other parts of the city instead of downtown if the intention is to bring car sales to the city in general. Brandt told Blair that downtown was the only zone where the sales weren’t allowed and the interest is there.

Blair asked if the input of downtown business owners had been sought, to which Brandt said no. Brandt said if a specific project comes forth in the future, businesses in the area would be notified and owners could voice their opinions at a public hearing at that point.

Blair maintained her stance, saying she believed car sales do not fit with the downtown aspect. Councilman Dave Brown said the city of Visalia seemed to thrive with the sales taxes coming from downtown car sales, though he wasn’t sure it fit with Lemoore either.

Mayor Ray Madrigal said the sales taxes would be good for the city, and he felt confident the process of offering conditional use permits would work well in maintaining the downtown aspect. Ultimately, the motion was passed 4-1 with “yes” votes from Madrigal, Mayor Pro Tem Eddie Neal and Councilmen Brown and Jeff Chedester, and a “no” vote from Blair.

In new business, Project Manager Judy Holwell said the city of Lemoore is considering options for its wastewater treatment projects, one option being to purchase land in the Lemoore Industrial Park for the expansion of its evaporation ponds.

The Lemoore Redevelopment Agency owns the property in the Industrial Park and the city is interested specifically in two parcels, located south of Idaho Avenue and west of 19th Avenue and totaling 35 acres. The estimated value of the property is $232,275.

Holwell said that on May 30, the Lemoore Oversight Board met and discussed the potential sale of property to the city of Lemoore. It was noted at the meeting that the city needs additional property to expand its wastewater treatment facility, and the property is located nearby and is already within Lemoore’s city limits.

After some discussion regarding health and safety benefits to the public, Holwell said the Lemoore Oversight Board agreed that it would be in the best interest of the community of Lemoore to sell the property to the city for the amount listed.

“It’s a very fair price and it does meet our long-term goals,” Brown said. “We need to move forward with our wastewater situation.”

All five members of the board unanimously approved the purchase of the property, with the money coming from general fund reserves.

The agreement will be forwarded to the California Department of Finance for review, and within five days, the department will either approve the sale of property or indicate that additional time is required for review.

The reporter can be reached at 583-2423 or jzavala@hanfordsentinel.com

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