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Irvine Is Given More Time on Park Plan

Land use: Leader of Orange County supervisors wants a parkland opportunity at the closed El Toro Marine base to translate to parity elsewhere.

June 04, 2002|JEAN O. PASCO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad will give Irvine more time to come up with a way to pay for its promise to fund north county parks from redevelopment of the former El Toro Marine base.

Coad said last month that, by today, she wanted details from Irvine of a plan to set aside $800,000 a year from El Toro for 100 years. Without that, she would rescind her April vote allowing Irvine to begin to annex the 4,700-acre base, where the county once hoped to have an airport. The Navy, which still owns El Toro, plans to sell the land to the highest bidder.

After a meeting late Monday, Coad said Irvine officials promised to have a "skeleton of a structure" in her hands before today's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Coad said she has been encouraged by some constituents to rescind her vote and keep the base under county control, which means redevelopment would be restricted by zoning imposed by the voter-passed Measure W. If Irvine annexes the property, it does not have to follow the dictates of Measure W, which rezoned the base from an airport to parkland and limited types of development.

Park plans for that south county land prompted Coad to press for parity in the form of parks money for the north county.

"There's a big credibility gap, not just between myself and Irvine, but between them and a lot of cities," Coad said of Irvine's extensive mailings to voters during the campaign for the March initiative, promising to build a "Great Park" at El Toro with museums, botanical gardens, sports fields and a large lake. The city pledges to honor the spirit of Measure W if it annexes the land.

Coad's April vote to allow annexation removed a critical roadblock for Irvine, enabling the city to control what is built at El Toro although it wouldn't own any of the land. A new vote by the Board of Supervisors could reinstall that roadblock because it must approve annexations.

In a letter sent to county officials earlier Monday, Irvine City Manager Allison Hart said the city's pledge to set aside El Toro funds for north county parks had been based on its hope that Irvine would become the owner of the base property and control future leases and other revenue. But the Navy has since said that it does not intend to let Irvine acquire the property, a position it reiterated by letter last week.

Without such control, the city can only offer to share property taxes when it annexes the land, Hart said. But under a plan announced in April, Irvine will create a redevelopment agency for the land, which means the bulk of future taxes on the property would go to the agency.

A 1993 change in state redevelopment law mandates that the county would get only 25% of future property taxes--not the 82% that the city promised to the county in the agreement Coad approved.

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