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Irvine Launches Plan for Annexing Air Base

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The City Council approved a plan Tuesday to begin the process of annexing El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

The plan, part of a city staff report that describes the procedure under which the city would annex the property, was endorsed with little discussion.

If the base is eventually incorporated into the city limits, Irvine officials would have more clout to fend off suggestions that commercial flights be allowed to share El Toro’s runways with military jets, City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr. said.

The Orange County Cities Airport Authority, a consortium of six cities, has already pointed to the base as a possible solution to future overcrowding at John Wayne Airport. But a group of other cities--Irvine, Dana Point, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano and Tustin--have opposed joint-use plans.

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Before Irvine can annex the 4,350-acre base, it must conduct environmental studies, update planning documents and request a public hearing before the Local Agency Formation Commission, as outlined in the action plan.

A commission hearing would be requested for October, according to Irvine’s estimated timetable.

The Orange County Cities Airport Authority would probably oppose a bid by Irvine to annex the base, said Newport Beach Councilman Clarence J. Turner, who represents his city on the authority. His group also includes Anaheim, Garden Grove, Santa Ana, Stanton and Yorba Linda.

Officials of those cities have said they want El Toro to remain one of several options for overflow flights from John Wayne, Turner said, but the authority is unlikely to take any action against Irvine’s annexation before the LAFCO hearing.

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Irvine officials have been talking about annexing the base since 1985. In June, the City Council voted unanimously to open annexation discussions with the Marine Corps. Council members said they were concerned that joint military and commercial use of the base would increase noise and traffic and decrease residents’ safety.

If Irvine succeeds in annexing the base, the city would also gain land-use authority if the military ever decides to close the air station. The military has already decided to close Tustin Marine Corps Air Station.

Any annexation of the base could be stopped by opposition from the landowner: the federal government. But so far, the military’s position is to remain neutral on annexation requests, unless it is determined that annexation would harm the base’s operations, said Col. Leonard R. Fuchs Jr., an El Toro base spokesman.

Military officials have not yet decided what position to take on an annexation attempt, he said.

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