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Anti-El Toro forces pleased by Navy decision

Barbara Diamond

The future of a proposed airport at the closed Marine Air Base at El

Toro is no longer up in the air after the U.S. Navy announced this week

that an airport was no longer under consideration as a possible use for

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the site.

Airport opponents were quick and firm in claiming victory after the

Tuesday announcement.

“It has absolutely been worth every minute I spent, every penny that

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was spent,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman, the city’s representative

to the anti-airport El Toro Reuse Planning Authority for the past two

years. “I am confident that the El Toro debate is over. The airport is

dead.”

Laguna supporters of an airport were disappointed.

“I favored an airport at El Toro because it was the right economic

approach for the county,” said North Laguna resident, Robert Mosier, a

retired electrical engineer and member of the Laguna Beach Taxpayers

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Assn.

Throughout the airport debate, the city officially opposed plans for

an airport at the 4,700-acre closed Marine base.

Since 1996, the City Council has contributed $1,727,935 to the anti-airport coalition of cities, said to be the largest per-capita

donation of any member city.

“Last year alone, we contributed almost $400,000,” Kinsman said.

The authority supported an annexation proposal by the city of Irvine,

which they felt was consistent with the Measure W concept for a “Great

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Park” on the site, approved by the voters in March.

Airport proponents vowed to continue their fight.

Tom Naughton, president of the Airport Working Group, is part of a

shrinking minority that believes there is still hope for an international

airport at the site.

The Airport Working Group has filed a lawsuit challenging Measure W

and plans to file another regarding the Navy’s decision, he said.

“We’re going to continue to pursue this issue totally,” Naughton said.

“There is no doubt about that.”

Assistant Secretary to the Navy H.T. Johnson was expected to meet

Thursday with the Orange County Board of Supervisors and Irvine

officials to discuss the transfer of ownership.

“Once the property is transferred to the county, Measure W zoning will

apply,” said Kinsman, a South Laguna resident. “After the Board of

Supervisors allows Irvine to annex the property, as it promised to do on

a 3 to 2 vote, the Irvine zoning will take over. Irvine has promised to

adhere to Measure W zoning.”

Kinsman based her optimism on a 13-page Record of Decision, known as a

ROD, issued Tuesday by the Navy that announced that the FAA has no

further role in the decision-making process for the disposal of the air

station at El Toro.

“Assistant Secretary Johnson said that the Navy’s goal remained the

same as it has always been: to return El Toro to private hands so that it

can be placed on the local tax rolls for the benefit of the citizens of

Orange County,” Kinsman said.

Republican Rep. Chris Cox, whose district includes much of Laguna

Beach, said the next step will be to transfer the property from federal

to local ownership.

“Today’s decision makes clear at the federal level what is already an

accomplished fact at a local level: The property will be developed for

parkland use and other Measure W-consistent uses, and not for aviation,”

Cox said in a prepared statement.

* Times Community News reporter Lolita Harper contributed to this

story.


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