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Pledge May Help Irvine's Effort to Annex El Toro

Land use: City won't form a redevelopment agency till after land is sold, a promise aimed at keeping Supervisor Coad's support.


Irvine has pledged to delay creating a redevelopment agency for the former El Toro Marine base until after the land is sold to private developers, a move that would increase the property's value on Orange County tax rolls and feed a trust fund that could be used for parks elsewhere.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad is supporting Irvine's annexation of 3,700 acres of El Toro, rezoned by voters in March from an airport to a park and limited development.

Coad's vote is contingent, however, on the city's promise to find $800,000 a year from the development of El Toro to finance parks in north Orange County.

In a plan delivered Tuesday morning to Coad, Irvine City Manager Allison Hart said the only way to guarantee money for parks is through property taxes paid by future private owners of El Toro land. The base's current owner, the Navy, is exempt from property taxes.

Supervisors agreed in April--on Coad's swing vote--to let Irvine annex the base, with the county to get 82% of the property taxes it would have received had the property been developed under its jurisdiction. When Irvine forms a redevelopment agency, however, the county's share of taxes would be frozen and the agency would receive most tax growth.

Under state redevelopment law, the county could keep only 25% of its share of future tax revenue once a redevelopment agency is formed--far less than the $800,000 a year Coad has demanded.

Coad said she wants Irvine to present a legally binding plan for providing North County park money to supervisors by June 25 or she will rescind her vote allowing annexation. That would create a roadblock for Irvine's plans to take control of the base, because the annexation needs county approval.

"MCAS El Toro is federal property and its sale should benefit all of Orange County," Coad said Tuesday.

Sale proceeds should "not just overwhelmingly accrue to residents in South County, who already have approximately 40 times the amount of parks and open space as in the north," she said.

County officials couldn't say what El Toro is worth because the land isn't taxed. Officials declined to say how much assessed value would be needed from El Toro to reach Coad's goal of $800,000 a year.

But based on the county's average tax rate, its share of total taxes and the percentage that would go to the county under the tax-sharing agreement approved in April, an assessed value of $1.5 billion for the El Toro land would generate $738,000 a year in property taxes for the county.

Irvine's plan calls for developing about 1,800 acres of the 4,700-acre base.

About 1,000 acres already have been set aside for a wildlife refuge.

The most valuable land is the 440 acres at the base's southern tip, where the city proposes allowing 1,500 homes, research-and-development businesses, and the expansion of the Irvine Auto Center.

The rest of the property is envisioned as a satellite campus of Cal State Fullerton and other institutional users.

However, if government entities, including the university, buy the property, they are exempt from paying property taxes.

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