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xyz Lemoore City Council Chambers

Lemoore Council Chambers.

LEMOORE — While originally a consent calendar item, Lemoore City Council discussed at length an objection letter in regards to a tribal land acquisition application from the Santa Rosa Rancheria.

The Council, after 30 minutes of discourse and an ardent objection from Councilmember Holly Blair, voted 4-1 to send the letter objecting to any land acquisition.

The city received a letter on March 7 from the U.S. Department of the Interior — which manages the nation’s Native American tribal communities — related to an application seeking acceptance of certain property within the city of Lemoore as part of the tribal lands for the Santa Rosa Rancheria Indian Community.

The Santa Rosa Rancheria Indian Community, which owns Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino, also owns the properties in question. These properties include the KFC on Lemoore Avenue and the property next to it, and a vacant lot north of the 7-Eleven in Lemoore.

The drafted letter of objection cited several reasons as to how acquisition of those properties could affect the city:

  • The land is located approximately six miles or more outside of the tribe’s current land reservation and is located within the city limits of the City of Lemoore.
  • If granted the City would lose needed revenue to the community, in the form or taxes and other fees. Property taxes alone for the requested land are approximately $12,093.40.
  • The City would be unable to enforce local laws, regulations or requirements on sections of land located within one of the City’s business areas. These segmented lands could potentially create unique safety issues for the City due to the fact that the adjacent land could also be affected.
  • The two parcels are located in the main shopping centers of Lemoore, on a highly traveled road with peak visibility. Future changes, inconsistent with the City’s General Plan, could be detrimental to the overall character Lemoore embraces.

City Manager Nathan Olson said due to these reasons, he couldn’t in good conscience recommend allowing the properties to become sovereign land.

He said the city had 30 days — until April 7 — to respond to the letter or the city would have no say as to what happens next.

Blair called the letter “badly written” and said no one had even reached out to the tribe to talk about their intentions for the land and were just making assumptions as to what the tribe would do with it.

“They’re a sovereign nation, and we’re not even treating them with the dignity of having a dignified discussion with adults,” Blair said, adding the city was not offering the tribe the same treatment as they would any other developer.

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Blair suggested reaching out to the tribe personally because perhaps they went through Department of the Interior because that is the only channel they know.

Olson agreed that the city would love to work with the tribe and that they continue to work toward a good relationship and communication, but said he would like them to follow the same rules as everyone else to works with, and in, the city.

Mayor Eddie Neal also had some issues with the letter, saying it made it seem like it was “us against them.” Neal said he wanted both parties to work together as one team and suggested it just be worded differently.

Councilman Dave Brown and Mayor Pro Tem Chad Billingsley said everyone who works with the city is treated the same, with the utmost respect, and that communication must go both ways.

Brown eventually made a motion to send the objection letter as presented. When the time came to vote, Blair said she wanted to make sure it was in the minutes that she voted “hell no” — a statement she was chided by Neal for making.

More from Council:

Olson said city staff and legal counsel are working on a draft ordinance regarding cannabis. He would like to bring something back to Council as soon as possible, but wants to make sure they are doing the research and coming up with a quality project.

Until a budget for next fiscal year is approved and the current fiscal year is closed out, Olson said the city has implemented a hiring freeze on all full-time positions until the end of the current fiscal year.

Olson added reorganization in the finance department and city manager’s office took six positions and filled them with five existing staff members, which should save around $100,000 a year to the general fund

He said he believes the city has the right people moving forward to enhance the departments and there will be no sacrifices in service due to the reorganization.

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

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