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Coad May Withdraw Support of Irvine's El Toro Annexation

June 25, 2002|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Cynthia P. Coad, whose pivotal vote helped Irvine win early support to annex the former El Toro Marine base, may withdraw that support today because she is skeptical of the city's promise to create a trust fund for parks in her district.

"I don't have any guarantee from Irvine, and I've asked for something like a signed assurance," Coad said Monday.

Coad is a staunch advocate of building a commercial airport at the former base. But after county voters in March approved a ballot measure rezoning the land to allow only a park and limited development, she joined a 3-2 board vote to allow Irvine to annex about 3,700 acres at El Toro. The board will reconsider that vote today.

Irvine elected officials said they hope to keep Coad's support to avoid resulting delays if supervisors rescind their decision.

Chris Mears, an Irvine council member, said Coad "has it within her power to throw a three- to four-month-long monkey wrench in the annexation process.... But she certainly isn't going to stop annexation or the sale of the base."

Mears said it is unreasonable for Coad to demand a guarantee that the city will set aside $800,000 a year for 100 years to help buy and improve parks in north Orange County. The city offered the money to help persuade supporters of the airport to back the park plan.

The Navy, which still owns El Toro, plans to sell the land to the highest bidder. Last week the Navy wrote the board to say Irvine's annexation of the former base is critical to sale.

H.T. Johnson, assistant secretary of the Navy, also urged the board to vote for a tax transfer agreement that will be part of Irvine's annexation application to the Local Agency Formation Commission.

Mears said the Navy's message is that the board should not hinder the city's annexation progress.

A delay would offer a final opportunity for pro-airport forces. A lawsuit challenging Measure W, which killed airport planning at El Toro, is due for a hearing in September. And another lawsuit was filed against the Navy last week in federal court in Washington seeking to block plans to sell the property for parkland and park-related development.

If a judge overturns Measure W, the county would resume planning an airport, said Supervisor Chuck Smith, an airport supporter.

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