Irvine Encouraged by Likelihood of OK for Great Park Funding

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The California Department of Finance will likely approve Irvine’s claim to $1.4 billion in future tax revenue vital to the Orange County Great Park that many worried was lost to the city after Gov. Jerry Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies statewide to balance the state budget.

Department officials “don’t anticipate questioning any of the items on the schedule,” said Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer Thursday.

The entire 1,300-acre park, the vast majority of which has yet to be built, was in a redevelopment zone, and it had long been assumed that its construction would be financed by increased property tax revenue from an adjacent 5,000-home development.

Irvine’s claim to the revenue was threatened when the state killed redevelopment last year. But city officials argued that it is entitled to the tax revenue because an agreement signed with Heritage Fields El Toro, the home developer, requires the city to build the park.

The city had submitted its claim to the revenue, known as a recognized obligation payment schedule. The state rejected the city’s claim last month based on technicalities involving how the schedule was filled out.

But the state asked the city to resubmit the claim, and unless city officials make significant changes to the schedule, it appears the claim will be approved, Palmer said.

The city will have to submit a schedule every six months, but once the city’s claim to the funding is approved, it will likely be approved again in the future, Palmer said.

“It’s our expectation based on the first several rounds of this, we will know what’s an enforceable obligation and what’s not,” Palmer said. “If they’re consistent with what’s approved, then it won’t be a problem.”

The City Council is scheduled to approve the revised schedule at Tuesday’s City Council meeting and again at a Wednesday meeting of an oversight board, which is tasked with winding down the redevelopment agency’s affairs, according to city spokesman Craig Reem. “We will be sending to the Department of Finance a document that we believe is appropriate for approval,” Reem wrote in an email to Voice of OC.

Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway, a member of the Great Park’s board of directors, wants to see the park built even though he has been one of the many critics of how its development has been managed.

“If the funds are handled responsibly, in the long term this will allow us to build a great metropolitan park for the 21st century,” Lalloway said.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek. And add your voice with a letter to the editor.

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