Orange County (California) Complains that City's
General Plan Is Designed to Block Airport Development

JUNE 21, 2001

Orange County is suing the City of Laguna Woods, claiming that the city has erected a major roadblock to the county's development of a commercial airport at the former Marine base at El Toro. The alleged barrier is a recent amendment to its general plan, removing language relating to an airport at El Toro.

The County is asking the courts to invalidate both the general plan and the amendment, claiming they endanger residents of the city who will be stripped of legal protections against-airport generated noise,pollution, safety hazards and potential airline crashes.

County counsel Jack Golden said the county Board of Supervisors, which has a majority of three favoring development of the airport, was concerned that the Laguna Woods City Council's recent amendment to its general plan, removing all language having to do with an airport at the former Marine base, left the community vulnerable to the effects of an airport, like noise pollution and other personal and property safety issues.

Golden wrote the city in April saying that the county contends the air station is still an airport. Joan Golding, Airport Land Use Commission executive officer, suggested the city change its "no environmental impact" (negative declaration) stand to a "potentially significant impact" stand, with regard to airport noise, potential accident zones, safety and so forth.

Laguna Woods City Councilman Bert Hack, a long-time opponent of an El Toro airport, called the suit "politically motivated" and an action that could come back to haunt its proponents. He noted that the county's concerns about the potential environmental impacts of an airport were exactly those that opponents of a commercial airport at El Toro have been pointing to all along.

And he noted that the retirement community of Laguna Woods puts a higher priority on the environmental issues than all other local entities, since recent federal, UCLA, and Harvard University studies have confirmed that high levels of pollution have a detrimental effect of the health and even cause earlier deaths in seniors.

Laguna Woods is directly under the proposed final approach to the El Toro airport. The Marine Corp Air Station at El Toro was closed in 1999, partly due to urban encroachment.

Source: Leisure World News