by David Madrid – Jan. 28, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
A dispute between the state and Maricopa County over residential construction near Luke Air Force Base may soon be over if a negotiated agreement makes it to the county Board of Supervisors.
It would be good news for Luke proponents, who are working to bring the F-35 Lightning II to the base, which they believe is the logical place to put an aircraft that replaces Luke’s aging F-16 jet fighters. Luke pumps $2.1 billion a year into the state’s economy.
The agreement would be signed by Gov. Jan Brewer and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, then would have to be approved by county supervisors. The supervisors could call a special meeting to consider the agreement this week.
Goddard stressed that the draft agreement is a work in progress, but he sent it to Brewer on Wednesday night for her approval.
Brewer said she was confident a deal acceptable to all was imminent.
“We’re hoping to have a good, strong positive message to send to (the Department of Defense) very soon that basically Arizona stands together, and we’re united and supportive of Luke Air Force Base,” she said.
Goddard said the agreement would ensure that the county approves a zoning ordinance preventing new single-family homes within the noise and accident-potential zones of Luke, its Auxiliary Field 1, and Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field.
Brewer and U.S. Sen. John McCain met with Supervisor Max Wilson several months ago to ask him to help end residential encroachment, said Scott Isham, Wilson’s chief of staff. Some of Wilson’s constituents have opposed development restrictions around Luke, however, saying their private-property rights would be harmed and their property values diminished.
Wilson would not comment for this article, but he sent an e-mail that said, “I am optimistic that now with Gov. Brewer taking a leadership role in the Luke Air Force Base issue for the state, we can put the political posturing behind us and lock up the F-35.”
Goddard sued the county in August 2008 to stop it from issuing building permits for new homes in Luke’s restricted areas.
The county countersued, asking the courts to strike down as unconstitutional the law that prevented building in those areas. The county maintained that landowner property rights prevented the denial of building permits in the restricted zones.
The court ruled in favor of the state in February, but a fight over a narrow strip of land prolonged the battle.
“It is my opinion that it (agreement) would settle the lawsuit,” Goddard said.
The potential for encroachment of homes on the base and its facilities works against the state’s attempts to land the F-35, also called the Joint Strike Fighter.
Air Force officials have asked residents, local government representatives and community leaders to help shape an environmental analysis study that begins the process for an environmental impact study. The EIS examines issues relating to land use, airspace and safety, air and water quality, noise, socioeconomic, biological and cultural resources.
The military will use the environmental impact study to help determine which base lands the F-35, a stealth air-to-ground fighter.
Goddard said the agreement he has sent to the governor meets the health and safety needs of Luke and protects the base.
He noted that the Air Force has a criteria sheet used to grade potential bases for the F-35. The competition is tough, and every point Luke can gain is critical to landing the F-35, he said.
Rusty Mitchell, Luke’s director of Community Initiatives Team, said the base can’t comment on the F-35.
The conclusion is here