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Supervisor’s Vote Shift May Delay Sale of El Toro

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A plan to speed Irvine’s annexation of the closed El Toro Marine base collapsed Tuesday after a key county supervisor withdrew her support, a move that could hamper the property’s transfer and delay its sale by the Navy for six months or more.

Board Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad rescinded her swing vote allowing the county to negotiate annexation details with the city, including how property tax revenue would be split. A majority of the five-member board must approve annexation before land can be transferred.

Until Coad’s April vote favoring annexation, three board members had supported developing an airport at the closed base.

Navy officials said last week they won’t complete the sale of any property until after the land is annexed to Irvine.

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Coad’s defection may set back any resolution of the base’s fate until early 2003 or later. She leaves the board at year’s end, and Supervisor Todd Spitzer is expected to win election easily in November to the state Assembly, leaving the board with a vacancy in January that must be filled by a special election.

Spitzer has supported Irvine’s annexation of the base.

Coad said her original vote for annexation was based on a pledge by Irvine that it would provide $800,000 a year from the development of El Toro for purchase and maintenance of parks in her north Orange County district. After Irvine passed three deadlines to deliver a legally binding agreement for the money, Coad said Tuesday she was giving up.

“I cannot support the annexation,” Coad told fellow supervisors at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Her successor, Supervisor-elect Chris Norby, has backed her idea of money for North County parks but also supports Irvine’s desire to annex the base. Norby was out of town and unavailable for comment.

For eight years, county officials, including Coad, pushed for an airport at the 4,700-acre former Marine base. In March, voters rezoned the property from an airport to parkland and limited development after Irvine pledged to build a large park on the grounds. A month later, county supervisors agreed to turn over control of the land to Irvine, which isn’t bound by the new zoning, but has pledged to honor its “spirit.”

Irvine Councilman Chris Mears on Tuesday accused Coad of promoting “her own narrow-minded airport agenda” by delaying the process and hoping that a Los Angeles County judge rules quickly on a lawsuit challenging the March vote on Measure W.

The Navy wants to sell the property in cooperation with Irvine and use the proceeds to support the nation’s military budget, Mears said.

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In a letter sent to county officials last week, the Navy’s assistant secretary for installations urged the county to approve the annexation so the property can be redeveloped by the new owners without delay.

Irvine said in April that it hoped to begin the annexation process formally in September, armed with a preannexation agreement signed with the county. The city now believes it cannot begin the process until December at the earliest.

But even if the city prevails with the county Local Agency Formation Commission, the county’s elected leaders must approve an annexation.


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