The city is moving quickly to plan for the development of 440 acres near the end of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station runway, an effort to impede plans to convert the base into a commercial airport.
Council members agreed Tuesday to pay a consulting firm $217,000 to produce a "shelf-ready" development plan that could be submitted to federal officials should the county's stalled airport planning process break down.
Tom Wall, an Irvine Chamber of Commerce representative who sits on both base-closure planning groups, the county's Citizens Advisory Commission and the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority, said the city's action will widen differences between the two groups.
"The Irvine Chamber is very concerned that the planning process is stalemated," said Wall, adding that the federal Office of Economic Opportunity has balked at funding the county's efforts to come up with a base-closure plan.
The County Board of Supervisors pulled out of the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority formed with Irvine after last November's passage of Measure A, which obliges the county to plan for a commercial airport at the Marine base after it closes by 1999.
South County cities have continued to fund the planning authority in an attempt to frustrate construction of a commercial airport at the military base.
Councilman Barry J. Hammond said there is little chance for compromise between the two planning groups.
"I don't believe the county and their process is working toward the same end as the city of Irvine," Hammond said.