Assessing the County's Air Traffic Needs

* Your recent editorial ("Far From Ripe for the Ballot," June 27) objecting to the El Toro airport initiative qualifying for the November ballot failed to mention the greatest motivating factor to those who sought to bring the future of the El Toro airport to the voters; the Board of Supervisors created a stacked planning agency that guaranteed that one El Toro option would be rejected before the agency's first meeting.

The only use of El Toro the agency would not consider fairly was that of an international airport due to the imbalance of "local" interests on the agency. Our entire county of nearly 3 million people may see its best interests sacrificed in order to provide an unearned betterment to a few small and very wealthy South County communities.

Remember that (in contrast to the expansion of LAX) the flight paths into and out of El Toro are already cleared of residential housing. The impacts of the marvelous expansion of businesses associated with an international airport are all manageable by the well-established planning procedures.

Commercial aircraft are dramatically quieter than military jets. The benefits of convenient East Coast and international air travel to Orange County deserves better attention than the county's one-sided planning agency will provide.

ALAN J. NESTLINGER

Santa Ana

* I frequently read that the John Wayne Airport's takeoff and landing restrictions prevent it from serving Orange County properly. The restrictions on takeoff and landing have been imposed on us by the residents of Newport Beach and surrounding areas. The major proponents of a commercial airport at El Toro are from Newport Beach and surrounding areas. Why did the county spend $52 million to modernize the John Wayne Airport if it can benefit only a minority in the county? Wouldn't it be less expensive to expand the John Wayne Airport? I understand that the cost to build a new airport at the El Toro base will be at least $1 billion.

GENE MORRIS

Lake Forest

* Most everyone agrees Orange County needs additional airport capabilities and John Wayne Airport just isn't able to provide them all. That is why allowing El Toro Marine base to remain an airport after the base closes makes sense. Past studies concluded it is the only viable location in Orange County that can meet the escalating needs.

South County residents continue to object, not wanting any increase of air traffic in their area and suggest additional flights and hours at John Wayne Airport.

The small size and realistic safety concerns with that airport's location testify John Wayne Airport must not be allowed to escalate any further.

It is time for other areas in Orange County to share the air traffic so that everyone can benefit. Orange County cannot afford to lose its last opportunity for an additional airport that is capable of meeting the growing demands of its population.

DAN O'NEIL

Newport Beach

* Even my Board of Supervisors cannot protect me from voter abuse (Editorial, June 27). California's initiative process used to result from grass-roots movements working hard to disseminate information. . . . Naively many still believe this is how the process works. This time the wealthy few who began and funded this "urgent" initiative somehow feel it is now or never.

Why must all of the El Toro Marine base land be designated "airport-related use only" as the initiative proposes? Why not let the current planning commission decide if a need is shown for a specialized air transport center, allowing the voters to express desires for alternative venues with the remaining property? Why isn't San Diego County interested in talking to us? They desperately need an international airport. Could not a joint venture on the coastline be negotiated with the military and the U.S. government? This would allow for air traffic safety as well as train service.

The El Toro airport conversion would cost big dollars for all county taxpayers north and south who already funded a new John Wayne Airport terminal. It is a far cry from being an existing airport ready to roll as the initiative leaders want us to believe. I don't like "sign today" sales pressure tactics without knowing the cost. I want to read all of the fine print, thank you!

MARY SCHWARTZ

Santa Ana

* The current Orange County airport is overextended and in my estimation is a disaster just waiting to happen. It is a forgone conclusion that the traffic (air) is bound to increase shortly due to the proliferation agreement's expiration. The idea of attempting to increase the size thereof is patently futile and would necessitate the condemnation of much of the surrounding property not to mention rerouting highways and (would be) far more expensive than utilizing what we already have and which is more adaptable.

Please bear in mind that the taxpayers have already paid for El Toro and even if it were sold the dollars would never find their way back.

El Toro as is could satisfy many crying needs in addition to air facilities such as augmentation to prisons (halfway houses, etc.), housing for the needy, affordable housing for those who cannot afford Irvine, Newport Beach and reuse of existing facilities such as shops, medical and fire stations.

ALAN L. BLUM

Balboa Island

* It is difficult to believe that a ballot initiative for or against a commercial airport at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station could go before Orange County voters without first requiring an environmental impact report.

This is a project that promises to be an environmental catastrophe from Tustin-Irvine all the way to the Orange County coast between Newport Beach and San Juan Capistrano.

Imagine giant airliners going overhead at two- to three-minute intervals 24 hours a day as they do at LAX. Your home would become untenable, you wouldn't be able to carry on a reasonable conversation, listen to television, or even think. Property values would be destroyed, and there would be a rash of lawsuits, resulting in hundreds, probably thousands, of homes being abandoned, relocated or bulldozed. It's all happened before, it could happen again.

Remember, the big beneficiaries would be a small group of out-of-the-area promoters and a few unthinking politicians.

Lets hope that people think before they vote this Nov. 8.

FRANK GILKERSON

South Laguna

* Mr. Bert Hack's assertion that the conversion of MCAS, El Toro to a commercial airport will force a $3-billion tax increase on Orange County residents is lacking in facts, logic and reality.

Mr. Hack needs a lesson in infrastructure financing and airport development. First, airport construction and development is not financed by general taxes. Airports, including runways, terminals, sewers, roads, etc. are financed by revenues derived from the operation of an airport. For instance, John Wayne Airport's expansion is not financed by the taxpayers of Orange County. It is financed by revenue bonds from aircraft landing fees, parking concessions, fuel flow fees, and merchant leases. In fact, John Wayne Airport is considered an enterprise fund and does not even have general taxes authority under California law.

Also, Mr. Hack needs to understand how California redevelopment law might work in El Toro's case. El Toro has never been on the tax rolls and therefore has no value for taxation purposes.

As soon as El Toro transfers from military to commercial use, its value as a taxable parcel increases dramatically. A commonly used financing tool employed by most local governments allows us to use this "tax increment" as collateral for the sale of tax-free municipal securities. These are known as redevelopment bonds and are used for infrastructure improvement. No tax increases occur with "tax increment" financing. The roads and sewers get built and paid for by future taxes generated by the businesses that add value to the now valueless property. Mr. Hack, did you and your Leisure World neighbors pay for the roads and sewers at the Irvine Spectrum?

El Toro airport will provide the economic stimulus that will be required to draw the businesses to El Toro that will create the tax revenue to finance infrastructure costs. Almost any other use for El Toro will require a tax increase.

MARK LEYES

Garden Grove

Mark Leyes is a member of the Garden Grove City Council and Orange County Regional Airport Authority.

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