2002 CPEO Military List Archive

From: Lenny Siegel <lsiegel@cpeo.org>
Date: 6 May 2002 15:00:47 -0000
Reply: cpeo-military
Subject: [CPEO-MEF] Lines in the sand
The sprawl of residential development near the flight path of Air Force 
jets based at Arizona's Luke Air Force Base represents a classical case 
of encroachment. However, not only are there still workable solutions 
there, but the development of such solutions may provide guidance for 
the development of national solutions to the growing tension between 
military readiness and metropolitan expansion.

I admit that I don't have detailed knowledge of the situation at Luke. I 
certainly don't know Arizona planning law. But I think the conceptual 
suggestion that I offer here may be useful to those on site.

The first step is for all stakeholders - the Air Force, state and local 
government, environmental groups, etc. - to draw lines the sand defining 
the boundaries of a military impact area. That is, one set of lines may 
describe the area within which noise from Luke's F-16s is likely to 
remain too loud for residential development. Other sets of lines may 
circumscribe areas sufficiently quiet to accommodate commercial or 
recreational use. Still others may represent other constraints, 
including safety zones for landing and departing aircraft or radio 
frequency interference areas.

This might not be easy. I can imagine the Air Force wanting large cones 
of flight, so the planes could operate unconstrained. And I can imagine 
residents and developers seeking to limit flights to the absolute 
minimum necessary to accomplish the installation's training mission. The 
delineated impact area, in my opinion, should lie somewhere in between.

The next step would be to translate the military impact area into a 
Military Impact Overlay Zone, through which the local land use planning 
jurisdictions would limit development based on the compromise lines in 
the sand. In some areas, height restrictions would assure flight safety. 
This is a rather standard practice. In other areas, residential 
development would be prohibited because of anticipated noise levels.

However, just as zoning, by itself, has shortcomings in enforcing land 
use controls associated with cleanup, it is likely to prove weak in 
halting encroachment. But the land use planning jurisdictions could 
reach long-term agreements, with the state or Air Force, making it more 
difficult to alter the Military Impact Overlay Zone unilaterally. It may 
also be possible to write such restrictions into deeds of other property 
documents. Conceivably, all of these steps would require modification of 
state law or municipal ordinances.

Restrictions on property use inevitably raise the constitutional issue 
of "takings." The government isn't supposed to take away land value 
without compensating owners. I don't think that even the U.S. Supreme 
Court knows yet how broadly it will define takings, but I'm somewhat 
unsympathetic toward speculators who buy undeveloped land on the 
assumption that it will soon be suitable for development. That is, if 
someone's property lies directly beneath an long-standing F-16 flight 
path, he/she shouldn't expect to build housing or sell the property at 
residential values there.

Still, if indeed the overlay zone lines in the sand take legitimate 
value from owners, then there should be mechanisms for compensation. The 
local government should be empowered to negotiate the purchase of the 
property or development rights; perhaps it should even be authorized to 
use eminent domain to gain control. Similarly, the Defense Department 
should be able to fund the purchase of development rights - as proposed 
in the Readiness and Range Preservation Initiative. There should be both 
voluntary and involuntary mechanisms for property owner compensation.

Most of what I'm suggesting is not new. But I'm urging more than its 
consideration in Arizona. It would help, at the dozens (or more) of 
military installations where the conflict between growth and readiness 
has emerged, to have a national template: a model zoning ordinance; 
supporting model state laws; and legally sound funding mechanisms. That 
is, a dialogue or discussion among national representatives of all the 
stakeholder groups typically found in locations such as Luke could 
develop generic solutions to encroachment. Those would have to be 
adapted at each installations, but working through the local details 
would be significantly easier if the conceptual guidelines were 
established nationally.


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