Four more South County city councils Tuesday night cast preliminary votes in support of an intergovernmental agency that would place South County cities in charge of planning the future of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
City councils in Irvine, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel and San Juan Capistrano tentatively agreed to support the “El Toro Reuse Agency"--joining what is now a seven-city coalition that would compete with the county for control of base conversion planning. Until now, San Juan Capistrano had not been part of the coalition.
Lake Forest, a staunch supporter of the proposed agency, was expected to approve the plan late Tuesday.
Earlier this week, the Laguna Beach and Mission Viejo city councils took similar votes to approve the “concept” of the agency.
But as the cities continued building their momentum for an agency that would give them greater political influence and control of the base located near their cities, council members restated their preference not to take on the sole responsibility.
“I don’t believe this kind of issue can be dealt with exclusively by cities,” said San Juan Capistrano Councilman Gary L. Hausdorfer, whose council voted 5-0 for the plan.
Laguna Niguel Mayor Thomas W. Wilson also expressed reservations, citing the “financial bottomless pit” that cities may be facing if they go through with the plan. Laguna Niguel’s annual fees would total $7,000 under the proposal, which assigns membership dues--and voting influence--based on a city’s proximity to the base.
“None of us, no city involved in this, has unlimited resources and so we are just going to have to be aware of our resources,” Wilson said before the council voted 4-0 to support the plan. Councilman James F. Krembas was absent.
The proposed agency--offering membership to all 31 of the county’s cities and the Board of Supervisors--was developed after the county refused to create a legally binding agency that would let South County cities share the final decision-making authority over base redevelopment plans. The county maintains that it controls the land use since most of the 4,700-acre site is in an unincorporated area of the county.
County officials are now privately reassessing their plans to create an advisory task force made up of key cities and business leaders that would send base conversion recommendations to the supervisors.
Reflecting the split on which plan is best, the Dana Point City Council heard presentations from representatives of the county and the city of Irvine, but took no vote.
“What we are looking at now is the process,” Dana Point Mayor Judy Curreri said after the council meeting. “In my mind, it’s how will our voice be heard the most. That’s what I am trying to decide. There are pluses and minuses on both sides; it’s not clear cut.”
The South County cities promise to consider all base conversion options even though the plan is being spearheaded by opponents of developing a commercial airport at El Toro.
Times staff writer Len Hall and correspondents Anna Cekola, Richard Core, Shelby Grad and Frank Messina contributed to this report.