Laguna Hills and Rancho Santa Margarita plan to pursue other options instead of contracting with the county in the new shelter

Laguna Hills, CA – 

The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved plans for a new animal shelter that will be built on a former Marine base in Tustin.

The plans for the new shelter to replace the one built in 1941 in Orange, which has come under fire in recent years from animal rights activists, have been in the works for years, but had been held up as Navy officials weighed the proposal.

The Navy had planned to turn over the property to the county for an animal shelter, but it won’t be available until at least next year. So county officials have arranged for a land swap. The animal shelter will be built on land owned by the South Orange County Community College District, which will get the Navy property once it is available.

“Back in 1995 our predecessors determined we were getting the dirt from the Navy and Tustin was an ideal location,” said Supervisor Shawn Nelson, who was one of the main negotiators for the current deal.

“Slowly, but surely, the Navy slow-plays the whole thing, which is kind of the Navy way — they’re in no hurry,” Nelson said. “So here we are 21 years later … we made a decision we’re going to have to start looking for another site and what we realized is we could come up with a creative solution. We’ll temporarily lease the college district property to get going on this and then when we get the title for the Navy property we’ll deed that property to (the college district).”

County officials have also jump-started the process to getting the shelter ready by hiring Snyder Langston LP, which can design and build it, Nelson said.

An advisory board will solicit comments for the shelter’s design and mission, Nelson said. Officials envision a shelter that provides an array of services for cities that use the shelter, he added.

“We want to provide a Chevrolet plan, but if cities want to upgrade we can make that available if space permits,” Nelson said. “If a city wants to pay more to keep a cat or a dog alive and there’s space then fine they’ll just have to pay a little extra for it.”

Some cities, however, “just want us to handle it and keep the costs down,” and don’t want to pay extra for a no-kill shelter, Nelson said.

The project is expected to cost about $35 million for the shelter on 10 acres, and construction could begin by July. The cities that contract with the county for animal control are Anaheim, Brea, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, Orange, Placentia, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park and Yorba Linda.

Laguna Hills and Rancho Santa Margarita plan to pursue other options instead of contracting with the county in the new shelter.

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