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Countywide : Decisions Loom on El Toro Base Future

Irvine leaders say this will be a decisive year in their quest to block the county’s planning process for the closure of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

A decision is expected in February on a lawsuit by Irvine, Lake Forest and other South County cities challenging the county’s adoption of Measure A, which calls for a commercial airport at the Marine base after it closes in 1999.

And in March, county residents will vote on Measure S, an initiative that would overturn Measure A.

After Measure A was narrowly approved by county voters in November 1994, the county’s Board of Supervisors took over the planning process for the closure of the El Toro base.

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Irvine and Lake Forest previously had a decision-making role on the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority, but the supervisors pulled out of the original planning group and won federal recognition as the official planning agency.

County officials said they were responding to the passage of Measure A.

But Irvine Mayor Michael Ward said there was no reason to invalidate the original planning group.

“Irvine and Lake Forest are the only cities that border the El Toro base,” Ward said.

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He and Lake Forest Mayor Richard T. Dixon successfully lobbied federal officials to withhold temporarily a $1-million grant needed to continue the county’s planning process, arguing that federal funding should await the outcome of Measure S.

Irvine Councilman Barry J. Hammond said an offer to give Irvine and Lake Forest a seat on the county’s base-planning advisory group, called the Citizens Advisory Commission, falls short of providing the decision-making power that federal regulations require.

“All 4,700 acres of this base are scheduled to be in our city one day,” Hammond said. “To have the rest of the county plan what will come into Irvine doesn’t make sense.”


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