In an unprecedented move, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has agreed to convene in Irvine to give residents a chance to speak out on the county's most controversial topic--a proposed commercial airport at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.
Holding the Oct. 2 meeting in Irvine City Hall recognizes the anger and resentment of South County residents who live closest to the 4,700-acre base and oppose turning it into an international airport or a cargo and general aviation facility, said Supervisor Marian Bergeson.
"Most of the concerns are coming from South County and people there feel like their questions are not being answered," said Bergeson, whose district includes the base. "This will give them the chance to speak before the entire board."
The future of the base is the single most important planning decision facing the county. At least eight public meetings will be held before Dec. 30, the county's extended deadline for submitting its base reuse plan to the Pentagon. The federal government has final say over whether the base will be conveyed to Orange County once the military abandons the facility in 1999.
Marking the first time supervisors have met away from the Hall of Administration in Santa Ana to discuss El Toro, the Irvine meeting will be held at 6 p.m. The board will be acting as the Local Redevelopment Authority, the only local agency with power to decide the base's future.
The meeting is likely to focus on the draft environmental study of three options for using the base once the military departs--a cargo and general aviation facility; and a variety of business, residential, educational, tourism and recreational uses. Residents have until Oct. 15 to comment before the report is finalized.
The following hearings will be held on the environmental report at the Hall of Administration in Santa Ana:
* The El Toro Citizens Advisory Commission meets at 5 p.m. Thursday Sept. 26.
* A joint meeting of the Citizens Advisory Commission, the county Planning Commission and the county Airport Commission will be held Oct. 16. No time has been set.
* The Citizens Advisory Commission will meet again Oct. 24. The meeting is set for 4 p.m., but may be held later.
* The Planning Commission also meets Nov. 19 at 1:30 p.m.; the Airport Commission meets Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. and the Citizens Advisory Commission meets Nov. 21 at 4 p.m. The commissions will make their final recommendations on the El Toro reuse plan at these meetings.
* The Board of Supervisors is expected to meet in early December to vote on a final reuse plan. No time or date has been selected.
Countywide, voters have twice endorsed the idea of developing an airport at the base but South County residents remain largely opposed, fearing an airport will bring noise and traffic and lower their property values.
Airport supporters say their fears are overblown, noting that the military has been flying in and out of the base for decades.
Bergeson and Supervisor Don Saltarelli, whose district also includes portions of South County, both have concerns about building an international airport at El Toro. Such a facility could serve 38.3 million passengers a year.
They have also urged South County residents to compromise, possibly by agreeing to a scaled back airport with a night curfew, for example. Bergeson and Saltarelli say they would work to get their three remaining colleagues--who are seen as supporting the larger airport--to also compromise on a smaller version.
South County leaders and residents, though, have largely opposed any compromise, saying they would rather fight the project in court.