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Countywide : Court Told Vote on Airport Needed

The group behind a ballot measure that asks voters to designate El Toro Marine Corps Air Station as a commercial airport filed court papers Monday to block an attempt by the city of Lake Forest to have the initiative invalidated.

The documents, filed in Orange County Superior Court by the Committee for 21,000 New Jobs, contend that Lake Forest officials are trying to deprive “the people of Orange County of their right of initiative” at “the eleventh hour” of a campaign drive to transform the base into a commercial airport.

Lake Forest officials, who are opposed to such a facility at the El Toro base, sued the county registrar of voters and the pro-airport committee two weeks ago contending that the initiative process does not properly address the impacts of an airport on traffic, noise levels and other countywide planning considerations.

The city is asking that a judge remove the initiative from the November ballot.

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A court hearing on the issue has been scheduled for Thursday.

Orange County Superior Judge Donald Smallwood, who is presiding over the dispute, said earlier this month that timing is crucial. He plans to resolve the issue by Aug. 29, the last day that Donald Tanney, the county registrar of voters, can delete the initiative before the ballot goes to print, he said.

Dana W. Reed, treasurer of the group that gathered more than 114,000 signature to qualify the pro-airport initiative, accused Lake Forest officials of challenging the ballot measure late in the campaign in an effort to divert the group’s attention from the election itself.

“It was a totally political move,” Reed said. “The whole idea of Lake Forest’s was to keep us busy, but it’s not going to work. The campaign is still moving along. This is just a completely frivolous lawsuit.”

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Lake Forest City Atty. Jerry Patterson could not be reached for comment Monday.

If the initiative passes by a majority of the voters, the county’s General Plan would be amended to designate 2,000 acres of the base as an airport and require that the remaining acreage be identified as compatible with an airport.

The pro-airport group argued in its court documents Monday that Lake Forest’s request to invalidate the initiative is “ill-conceived and ill-timed” and should be denied. The group contends the city has plenty of time to challenge the legality of the initiative after a vote, and if it is approved.

Furthermore, the group states that the initiative is not legally flawed.

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