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New Homes Exempt From Noise Litigation

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Residents who buy new homes in one area near the proposed airport at the El Toro Marine base will be unable to sue or demand soundproofing to reduce airplane noise under an agreement approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

The board voted unanimously for so-called avigation easements that pave the way for Mission Viejo Co. to build 1,800 housing units in a section of Aliso Viejo that has been vacant for 20 years.

But the board added amendments that would require explicit disclosure statements to prospective buyers. In addition, real estate brokers would have to provide buyers with maps, descriptions of where planes would fly and how that might affect them.

“I continue to oppose an airport at El Toro, but it is imperative that I make sure there are protections in place should the worst case occur,” Supervisor Tom Wilson said.

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The new homes will be near the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor in what had been known as the “no-homes zone” under an agreement between the county and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Mission Viejo Co. won approval to develop the land last year when the supervisors voted to lift a ban on residential development in that portion of Aliso Viejo. The developer plans to build multifamily homes and apartments in the area.

County officials say commercial airplanes are less noisy than the military fighter jets that use El Toro now, but there still could be complaints if an international airport is built only a few miles away.

“This gives the county the right to fly airplanes over those homes,” said Ben de Mayo, deputy county counsel. “There will be noise, and the folks who live there will acknowledge that there is noise.”

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County officials added that they do not expect any of the Aliso Viejo homes to be within the 65-decibel sound zone, which under state law would require the county or the airport authority to soundproof the homes or buy out the homeowners.

But some South County residents insisted that unsuspecting future homeowners would not have any recourse if the noise from an airport became unbearable.

“I have yet to meet a new homeowner who understood that they had waived the right to sue the county of Orange for property damage to their homes . . . waived the right to seek noise insulation . . . and signed away up to one-third of their home value in the event El Toro opens up to commercial flights,” said Ronald Steinbach, a South County real estate lawyer and advisor for the anti-airport group Taxpayers for Responsible Planning.


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