Fighting for the economy
Glendale, Ariz., is leading a charge in western Maricopa County to protect its major employer, Luke Air Force Base (AFB), from the Department of Defense’s next Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 2005. By protecting land around the base from unrestricted development, improving infrastructure and creating services for base employees, city leaders hope to preserve the base’s role in the local economy.
Luke AFB is the largest fighter pilot training facility for the Air Force and the only active duty F-16 training base in the world. Approximately 8,000 people work on the base, which contributes $1.5 billion annually to the state’s economy and $224 million in tax revenue to Glendale’s annual operating budget.
Over the last 62 years, 10 cities have sprung up around the base, bringing residents and businesses that have to contend with the airplane noise. The growth has become so heavy around the northern end of the base that Luke has reduced, by half, the number of flights carrying live munitions that take off from its northern runway, redirecting them to the south.
In 1995, seeing the effect that growth was having on base operations, Glendale leaders began taking steps to prevent further encroachment that could hamper base operations and threaten its existence. That year, Glendale annexed the base, thereby giving local government leaders some control over the development surrounding it. “By annexing that land, the city was able to speak for Luke in terms of encroachment and compatible land uses and give it a voice at the legislature,” says Miryam Gutier, director of intergovernmental programs for Glendale.
Next, the city began working with state legislators to create statewide guidelines for development surrounding military bases. A law passed in 1995 requires cities near military airports to adopt land use plans and enforce zoning regulations that are compatible with the noise and potential safety hazards created by military aircraft.
Subsequent legislation has established what are permitted land uses within specific “high noise and accident potential” zones surrounding military airports. Additional laws require those developers who want to build near bases to submit development plans to base officials for review.
Besides pushing for state legislation guiding growth and development around military bases, Glendale is joining forces with neighboring communities to acquire land near Luke AFB that will remain free of development.
City leaders also have improved infrastructure surrounding the base, including paving roads with rubberized asphalt and upgrading signs. The city also operates a bus service, called Luke Link, that carries 100 passengers daily from the base commissary to the local hospital and downtown Glendale.
Although Glendale’s efforts cannot guarantee Luke’s longevity, leaders hope they are not contributing to the base’s demise. “I believe that the local, state and federal officials and business leaders have all shown that the mission and the preservation of the mission of Luke AFB is important,” Gutier says. “That mission is not only important to national security, but, in terms of economic impact, it’s important to Arizona.”