(Phoenix, Ariz. -- Feb. 4, 2010) PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Terry Goddard and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors today adopted an agreement to resolve a long-standing issue involving residential encroachment around Luke Air Force Base at a special meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors held at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park.
“I’d like to thank key leaders and their staff who joined me in reaching this important resolution that the Supervisors adopted today, including Senator John Nelson, Attorney General Terry Goddard, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Senator John McCain,” said Governor Brewer. “It is a testament to our state officials who came together in a unified and cooperative spirit to uphold the health and welfare of our citizens, preserve the rights of property owners as well as the success of the State’s military bases. Our unified agreement will no doubt make clear to the U. S. Defense Department that Arizona stands ready for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter mission.”
"This agreement represents a major victory for the citizens of Arizona," Goddard said. "It upholds state law, protects the health and safety of nearby residents and strengthens Luke's bid for the F-35. It also shows what can be accomplished when a commitment to serve the greater good prevails over political and policy differences."
The settlement reached by the parties provides that the County will not issue building permits for new or expanded residential construction in high noise and accident potential zones.
“We always knew that protecting Luke was our common, unifying thread,” said Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Don Stapley. “But working together on this agreement, those bonds and communication are stronger. Those bonds will serve us well in the future.”
“The Governor has always been a strong supporter of Luke Air Force Base,” said Supervisor Max W. Wilson. “This agreement protects the base, its mission and its future. It gives Maricopa County taxpayers a measure of protection as well.”
The agreement removes a concern raised by Air Force officials about further residential encroachment near the base and should improve Luke's chances to be chosen as a training base for the next generation of Air Force jets, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. That decision stands to have a substantial impact on Arizona’s economy since the base contributes more than $2 billion a year to the state.
The Luke controversy goes back to 2004 when the State Legislature and the Governor signed into law development requirements to ensure adequate buffer zones around the State's military bases. All local governments in Maricopa County, with the exception of the county itself, complied with the law. The county continued to issue nearly 100 residential building permits in areas with high accident and noise potential surrounding Luke and its related facilities.
Two years ago, Goddard issued a legal opinion affirming the Legislature's intent to protect Arizona's military bases and followed up with a letter to the Maricopa County Board asserting its legal obligation to protect Luke from residential encroachment. When the board indicated it would not comply, he filed a lawsuit asking the court to require the county to take the steps required by state law. The county countersued, asking the court to strike down the 2004 law.
One year ago, Maricopa County Superior Court ruled in the State’s favor on nearly every point in the lawsuit, but the county remained unwilling to give up all aspects of its legal challenge.
The agreement reached this week resolves the lawsuit and should stop residential development near the base. A key to the settlement was the State's willingness to partner with the county and be the first line of legal defense against any potential lawsuits filed by property owners who still want to build in the high-risk zones around Luke.