A pact aimed at keeping a handful of recreation programs open at the former El Toro Marine base dissolved Tuesday after Orange County officials failed to reach agreement with those fighting plans for an airport there.
The Navy has threatened to padlock the base July 1 if the two sides don't resolve their differences. The county wants airport foes to drop a challenge to the transfer of police authority over the base, now pending before the State Lands Commission in Sacramento.
Navy officials had said they wanted a solid indication from all sides that the dispute would be resolved by today.
Without such an agreement, the Navy has said it would begin sending eviction notices to operators of the base golf course, horse stables, child-care center and recreational-vehicle storage lots.
The sticking point involves the timing of possible jet flights and other aviation activity at El Toro. The county wants to begin airport-related work as soon as possible; foes, confident that they will ultimately shoot down plans for an airport, want to keep aviation activity grounded for as long as they can. Still, not much was separating the two sides before talks collapsed.
Two pro-airport supervisors offered Tuesday in a private meeting to hold off on aviation activity at the base for 3 1/2 years, up from the two years offered last week. Anti-airport forces, who last week insisted on a five-year flight moratorium, were willing to drop to four years. Beyond that, neither side would budge.
Frustrated by the impasse, Board of Supervisors Chairman Chuck Smith said Tuesday that he'll ask his colleagues next week to consider filing a lawsuit against the State Lands Commission. He said commissioners are violating state law by deliberately delaying transfer of police protection from federal marshals to the Orange County Sheriff's Department.
"It's reprehensible to see children, the handicapped, veterans and horses held as political hostages," Smith said.
State Lands Commission Executive Director Paul Thayer said the panel has 45 days to act after completing a public hearing on the transfer, which was held in December. He said the hearing has remained open because of questions raised by South County airport critics.
The commission has not yet scheduled a June meeting. The Navy wants the transfer approved by mid-June. Navy officials would not comment.