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Supervisors Hear Loud Complaints on El Toro Tests

Airport: About 200 residents demand end to plans in first formal meeting with officials.

July 28, 1999|DAVID REYES and JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

South County residents still fuming over noise made by commercial jets flying over their homes made some of their own Tuesday night before the Orange County Board of Supervisors and its pro-airport majority.

About 200 residents demanded an end to plans to build a commercial airport at the retired El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, arguing jets that flew in and out of the military base as part of a noise experiment produced an unbearable roar as they descended over communities from Dana Point to Laguna Woods and departed over Irvine, Anaheim Hills, Foothill Ranch and Coto de Caza.

Some of the jets were so loud, said Gail Brunell of Laguna Niguel, that they "were rattling the roof tiles on my house."

Another South County resident, Bob McCarter of Aliso Viejo, expressed concerns about the safety of his and other children who attend Oak Grove Elementary School, which is below a proposed flight path. From his home, he said, "it was close enough to see the pilots' faces."

McCarter said he's also worried about the impact an airport would have on real estate: "Since the demonstration, I've seen three 'For Sale' signs go up in my neighbor's yards."

The meeting marked the first time residents had the opportunity to formally address the board on the results of the test flights.

Before testimony was taken, Supervisor Todd Spitzer said he took offense that Vincent Mestre, an acoustic engineer in Newport Beach who has been hired as the county's noise expert, was not present for the meeting.

Calling the engineer's absence, a "Mestre mystery," Spitzer added that noise data vital to constituents in his district was "conspicuously missing" from the county's noise report.

"The point is those machines [measuring noise during the experiment] measured something. My question is: Where is that data?" Spitzer asked.

Prior to the meeting, Mestre had informed county officials that he was unavailable to attend.

Newport Beach residents were also in attendance Tuesday night, countering that noise from two days of demonstration flights in June were significantly quieter than what Newport Beach deals with every day from John Wayne Airport traffic.

Derek Leason of Newport Beach told supervisors it was incumbent upon them to find a transportation solution that didn't "pit Newport Beach against South County."

The ruckus over the demonstration flights echoed complaints aired in late June when a hastily scheduled forum at an Aliso Viejo high school drew about 700 South County residents furious over the prospect of commercial operations at El Toro.

The Board of Supervisors will vote on a final project in December, about the time environmental studies should be completed. The county expects to receive a deed to the El Toro base next year.

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