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Laguna Niguel Backs Creating City Panel on El Toro Use : Military: Council's resolution formally links it with other South County municipalities in opposing plans to turn the Marine base into a regional airport.


LAGUNA NIGUEL — Closing ranks with its neighboring communities, the Laguna Niguel City Council declared its support Monday night for creation of a panel giving South County cities a share in determining the future use of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

The unanimously approved resolution formally links Laguna Niguel with Irvine, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest and Mission Viejo in opposing conversion of the base to a regional airport, a proposal supported by other Orange County cities.

Fearing a regional airport would destroy their quality of life, South County cities announced last week that they would break away from the county and seek control over the 4,700-acre base themselves. That move came after county supervisors voted to create an El Toro planning agency that gave the cities an advisory role and left the final decision-making authority to the county.

The Defense Department has told local governments that if they do not unite behind one planning agency, they risk losing millions of dollars in federal grants for converting the base when it closes in four to six years.

Although most of the discussion among South County cities since last week has involved formation of a joint powers authority absent of county officials, the Laguna Niguel resolution states a desire to have the county involved in the process.

"Right now there's a potential for two groups, and that won't wash in the reuse process," Mayor Thomas W. Wilson said.

"The county is going to be invited to participate in the (joint powers authority), I'm certain of that."

In a related matter, the council voted to appoint Councilwoman Patricia C. Bates Bates as its representative and Councilman Mark Goodman as the alternate to meetings with the South County cities. Wilson had been the cities' representative with Bates the alternate.

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