Over the past two decades, the city of Goodyear has taken bold steps to ensure development around Luke Air Force Base’s Southern Departure Corridor remains compatible with Luke’s mission.
Goodyear’s City Council has recognized for years the importance of protecting the base from encroachment.
In 1994, the Council adopted a new zoning policy that requires all new residential developers in the city to inform buyers that their property is subject to aircraft flyovers from Luke. But, this was just the beginning of several actions this southwest city has done to help protect Luke’s mission.
During the ‘90s as residential growth continued around Luke, it became increasingly apparent that the Southern Departure Corridor was essential to the future viability of Luke’s mission.
The increased pressure of residential developments north of the base prevented Luke from flying live ordinance off the north end of the runway. As a result, the Southern Departure Corridor became the only route F-16 fighter pilots headed to the Barry M. Goldwater Range could use to carry live ordnance.
This change of live ordnance flights to the south in 2001 caused major safety concerns for Luke and the city of Goodyear.
One such concern centered on Duncan Family Farms, which had become a very popular field-trip destination for many area schools since 1991. With the change in live ordnance flights, the farm was now located directly in Luke’s accident potential zone.
The city worked closely with the farm’s owners and several other nearby property owners to find alternative locations for them to relocate that were outside the accident potential zones. When no sites could be found that were acceptable to all parties, Goodyear became the first city to make a substantial financial commitment to protecting Luke’s interests by purchasing Duncan Family Farms.
Two years later, Goodyear took another major step in protecting the only remaining flight corridor for Luke’s fighter pilots.
In 2003, Goodyear Mayor Jim Cavanaugh and council members partnered with Arizona’s congressional delegation to request money in the federal government’s Military Appropriations Bill for land acquisition to preserve access to the Barry M. Goldwater Range.
On March 18, 2004, a press conference was held to announce that $27.3 million in federal money had been awarded to buy land around Luke to protect the base from residential encroachment.
“This was a great day for Luke Air Force Base and a great day for Goodyear,” said Cavanaugh. “More than 90 percent of the Southern Departure Corridor’s 4,000 acres are located in Goodyear, and this money made it possible for the government to compensate land owners in our city and protect Luke’s mission.”
With the federal appropriation, the threat of residential encroachment south of the base was well on the way to being controlled. But Goodyear officials felt one more bold steps were needed.
The final and arguably the most substantial protection effort was a rezoning decision the City Council made in 2005 relating to 200 acres of property within the noise contour lines.
Robson Properties had sought and received approval from Goodyear in 1998 to use this property for phase two of the Pebble Creek master-planned community.
However, after the noise contour lines were amended into the city’s General Plan in 2000, building residential units on this property was no longer an option. At the city’s request, Robson Properties agreed to move the planned residential units to property outside the noise contours. The developer also agreed to no longer build residential units within the adopted noise contour lines.
“Over the years, Goodyear has demonstrated its dedication and commitment to protecting Luke Air Force Base,” said Cavanaugh. “This not only applies to Luke’s current mission, but its future missions as well. Bold action was required then, and bold action is required now for us to secure the new F-35 training mission.”
As a result of the proactive actions and decisions that Goodyear has made over the last two decades, the city is now known as the “proud home of Luke’s Southern Departure Corridor.”