Conventional deal?

The Orange County Commission agreed last week in a split decision to spend $70 million to buy 230 acres for a convention center expansion. Of the seven members, Clarence Hoenstine and Bob Freeman voted no, while Ted Edwards, who originally opposed the deal, voted yes. The land will be bought from Universal Studios, which has agreed to buy it from Lockheed Martin. The land deal is just a small part of the $748 million expansion project proposed by outgoing County Chairman Linda Chapin. It was delayed two weeks amid concerns the price was too high. Universal lowered its per-acre price but packaged 30 acres more than necessary for the expansion, keeping the overall price about the same. Freeman still thinks something stinks. "Is there an extra $20 million in there for light rail?" he asks, outlining a deal whereby the county would overpay for the land so Universal could return the money for the light-rail project.

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