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Consultant: Millennium Plan Too Rosy

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Opponents of a plan for an international airport at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, set to close next year, have seriously underestimated the cost of the non-aviation alternative, a consultant said Wednesday.

Pike Oliver, hired by the Orange County Regional Airport Authority which favors the proposal, said the Millennium Plan, which would include a stadium, convention center, museums and a park at the site would cost Orange County taxpayers about $543 million--more than 14 times the amount estimated by airport opponents.

In addition, Oliver said, the park alone would cost more than $2.6 million a year to maintain.

“There are some inconsistencies and overlying optimistic assumptions in the plan,” Oliver told about 50 public officials, consultants and residents at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim for a meeting of the airport authority. “There’s a real reliance on some public and private support that is not there. We believe there is some significant taxpayer burden involved.”

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But a spokeswoman for the El Toro Reuse Planning Authority, which supports the Millennium Plan, said Oliver got it all wrong.

“They missed the whole point of the conversion process,” Meg Waters said. “They’re comparing apples to oranges, and it’s not a valid comparison.”

Just as the proposed airport would rely on public conveyance of the land by the federal government, she said, so would the Millennium Plan. And unless the plan can be implemented using private funding, Waters said, it won’t be implemented at all.

“The way the trend is going,” she said, “you can’t build a stadium with tax dollars anymore. If private funding doesn’t want it, it won’t be done.” The case is the same for other facilities proposed, she said.

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The meeting was the first of three scheduled by the airport authority to discuss the Millennium Plan.

“The aviation alternative is being closely reviewed,” said Peggy Ducey, the group’s executive director, “and we think it’s important to give the same kind of critical evaluation to the non-aviation use. We want to look at the economic assumptions made in that plan and ask whether they are realistic.

“Many people are touting the Millennium Plan as the way to go, but the bottom line for us is accurate information.”


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