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Legal Challenges to O.C.'s Great Park End

Irvine and pro-airport groups settle the final suits opposing El Toro redevelopment.

June 10, 2004|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

The last two lawsuits challenging the redevelopment of the closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into the Orange County Great Park have been settled, further sealing the fate of the former airfield once envisioned as a commercial airport.

The settlements, reached Tuesday night between pro-airport groups and Irvine, formally clears the last legal hurdles for development at the 4,700-acre facility, which Irvine annexed last year.

"The settlement of these lawsuits is truly an armistice," said Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, whose city has zoned El Toro for 3,625 homes, 3 million square- feet of commercial and industrial space, and 2,800 acres of parks and public facilities.

Pro-airport groups challenged Irvine's annexation and its environmental report for the Orange County Great Park plan, alleging among other things that the city had not adequately accounted for traffic, air pollution and cleanup of the hazardous materials that have accumulated on base land after decades of military use.

In Tuesday's settlement, Irvine agreed to conduct additional studies to ensure its plans are compatible with restrictions the Navy is likely to attach to parts of the base that may have contamination problems.

Recently released documents showed that about a quarter of the 3,700 acres slated for sale cannot be immediately transferred to builders because of concerns over contamination. An additional 1,000 acres have been reserved for a wildlife preserve.

Those hot zones will be leased instead to developers and transferred later once they are cleaned up or cleared by environmental officials. The Navy is charged with conducting soil tests and cleaning the land before transferring to developers, but Irvine has zoning powers.

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