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Orange County

Supervisors OK El Toro Traffic Study

A plan for county land is approved, a step toward Irvine's annexation of the former base.

May 07, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Irvine's annexation of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station inched forward Tuesday as the Orange County Board of Supervisors agreed on plans for developing 200 acres of county property there.

The county intends to build government offices on the property.

The board's decision on how much traffic its acreage might generate was needed before Irvine can ask a state panel this month to allow its takeover of 3,700 acres -- by far the largest chunk of base. A separate 1,000-acre parcel will remain in federal hands as a wildlife habitat.

Until last year, county officials had spent $60 million planning for an airport at the former base, which closed in July 1999. In March 2002, voters dumped the airport plan in favor of rezoning the property as a large park and open space.

The following month, the Navy announced it would sell the El Toro property to the highest bidder. A public auction is scheduled for fall.

Irvine's annexation will allow more intense development of the property, which city officials say is necessary to generate enough money to pay for the park. Irvine's plan calls for developing about 1,500 acres with about 3,460 homes, 3 million square feet of office, retail and industrial space, two golf courses and an exposition center.

The remaining land would be set aside. The city intends to eventually turn this land into sports fields, parkland and open space, using the $350 million it expects to net by selling development rights to the 1,500 acres.

The county will get about 82% of the property taxes generated by the base's development. But once the city creates a redevelopment zone, the county's share can be spent only on developing or improving the 200 acres that it owns.

That provision caused Supervisor Chuck Smith to provide the lone 'no' vote to the agreement, calling it a "massive giveaway." The property tax money, Smith argued, should go into the county's general fund and be available for expenses elsewhere.

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