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ALISO VIEJO : Tollway Land Pact Is Placed on Hold

A controversial deal that would have allowed Orange County to use Mission Viejo Co. lands as collateral for $34 million in San Joaquin Hills tollway construction financing has been put on hold.

Under the proposal, Aliso Viejo residents would repay the debt, plus interest, through Mello-Roos taxes. The deadline for the proposed transaction was today, but the deal was delayed after protests by residents who say it is unfair to make them pay taxes for the 15-mile tollway.

County officials said Monday that they delayed signing documents needed to finalize the deal because of an ongoing court case in which environmentalists and homeowners are challenging the project’s environmental reviews.

Mike Ruane, director of the county’s Environmental Management Agency, said the county’s lawyers are trying to avoid running afoul of a court order not to do anything that could be seen as moving forward on the tollway until a judge makes a final ruling on the environmental reviews, which may not happen until March.

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The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by several plaintiffs, chief among them the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Ruane and other officials said the postponement in signing the final documents, which was supposed to have been done by today to obtain the $34 million in collateral from the Mission Viejo Co., will not have any immediate consequences on the deal.

“I think inherent in these agreements is the understanding that there can be delays beyond the control of the parties involved,” Ruane said. “Right now the safest course is to do nothing that can be perceived as moving forward on the San Joaquin Hills corridor.”


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