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Citizen-Advisors Split on Feasibility of El Toro Airport

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Some citizens appointed to scrutinize the draft environmental report plotting the future of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station voiced concerns Thursday about development proposals at the military base.

While many applauded the work put into the report--with some even endorsing an airport option--others could not put aside nagging concerns when the topic came before the El Toro Citizens Advisory Commission, the body that will make a key recommendation on a base reuse plan to the County Board of Supervisors.

The county is considering three options for the 4,700-acre base: a passenger-cargo airport that could serve as many as 38.3 million passengers a year; a cargo-general aviation facility; or mixed uses such as business, residential, recreation and tourist attractions.

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A variety of residents, from business people to pilots, were appointed to serve on five subcommittees that are helping the commission study each element of the environmental report.

But at least two subcommittees--traffic and environmental--failed to complete their recommendations.

Members of the subcommittee overseeing land use questioned whether the environmental report was adequate. They said it failed to specify whether more public services, such as fire stations and schools, would be needed to support future plans for the base.

“There needs to be more flexibility in the land use plan” in case change is needed, committee member Monica Florian said.

Members of the economic subcommittee said the final environmental report should clear up any vagueness about whether the projected jobs and economic growth would be new or would shift from other areas of the economy.

But those on the aviation subcommittee sharply disagreed. After equally weighing all three options outlined in the draft environmental report, it was decided an airport would be the best reuse for the base, subcommittee chairman Tom Wall said.

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“There are no insurmountable barriers” to a commercial airport at El Toro, he said.

Several public speakers objected, including airline pilot Todd Thornton, who said he still has serious concerns about the adequacy of El Toro’s runways.

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