IRVINE : Mayor Vows Battle on El Toro Reuse Plan

The promise of a compromise over the county's contested planning process for the closing of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station has evaporated, Mayor Michael Ward said Friday.

Ward said that he and Lake Forest Mayor Richard Dixon walked out of a meeting with county officials at Irvine City Hall and will fight to block the county's efforts to plan for the 1999 closure of the base.

Irvine and Lake Forest have already helped delay a $1-million federal grant needed to fund the county planning process.

The cities lobbied the federal Office of Economic Adjustment to withhold funding pending the outcome of Measure S, a March ballot initiative that seeks to overturn the voter-approved Measure A, which calls for a commercial airport at the base. The cities have also filed a lawsuit against Measure A.

"I will personally, as the mayor of Irvine, do everything possible to see that the federal government does not fund the county planning process," Ward said. "And I will do everything I can to see that Measure S passes."

After meeting with Supervisors Roger Stanton and William G. Steiner in November, Ward said he thought a compromise was in the works to give Irvine and Lake Forest a seat on the decision-making board, which consists of the five supervisors. But county officials say that is not an option.

"It would, in fact, skew the balance that currently exists," county spokeswoman Courtney Wiercioch said. "The communities of Irvine and Lake Forest are very well represented on the board."

Supervisor Marian Bergeson, who represents south Orange County and pro-airport Newport Beach, said she had hoped city officials on both sides of the debate could have been seated on the decision-making board.

"The prospect for seeing any meaningful solution for El Toro is very likely to elude us, and that would be a tragedy for the county," Bergeson said. "I'm disappointed, because I'm afraid we're looking at years of litigation over this."

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