The Irvine City Council voted 3-2 this evening to site Orange County’s first veterans cemetery on 125 acres of strawberry fields owned by developer Five Points, located near the conjunction of the I-5 and I-405 freeways. The developer is donating the land in exchange for the original site for the cemetery, the 125-acre ARDA parcel owned by the City of Irvine.
Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox voted in favor of the strawberry fields site; Mayor Pro Tem Lynn Schott and Councilman Jeff Lalloway were opposed, and favored moving forward with the ARDA site.
The land swap has fueled months of controversy in Irvine. Veterans preferred the strawberry fields, which would be less expensive and time consuming to develop. The developing the ARDA site would entailed spending tens of millions on demolition of runways and dozens of buildings, in addition to soil remediation issues. Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva secured promises of $30 million in state funding (the cemetery will be owned by the state), which left a shortfall of at least $50 million.
Former Mayor Larry Agran and his constituencies lobbied in favor of the ARDA site.
While the issue was controversial and the council meeting long, the outcome of tonight’s was never really in doubt. Tonight’s special meeting was called by Mayor Wagner and Councilmember Fox for this purpose, and the respective positions of the five councilmembers were well known.
The OC Register has published their account of the meeting here.