Big Bad Developer

George Johnson is quickly becoming the most notorious developer in Arizona

If the flight paths remained, homeowners in the development would be subjected to about 9,000 130-decibel low-level jet flyovers, which, according to one pilot, "make a rock concert sound like birds chirping."

The light from Johnson's estimated 175,000-resident city, a helicopter commander says, "would essentially blind our night-training equipment. And once you've blinded that equipment, you've basically begun a crash sequence."

Johnson's development would force the Army to fly its helicopters to another testing range about 20 minutes farther away. That would drive up the base's expenses by an estimated $8.2 million, which, according to one Army major, "would render us cost-ineffective" with the Department of Defense.

George Johnson's three troublesome developments.
George Johnson's three troublesome developments.
Johnson has since moved his goat herd away from the bighorn  sheep haven northwest of Tucson.
courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity
Johnson has since moved his goat herd away from the bighorn sheep haven northwest of Tucson.

Even if the development isn't approved, Johnson still is facing a full-scale attack from scientists, environmentalists and those still smarting from his activities around Johnson Ranch and the Little Colorado River.

Indeed, local environmentalists and scientists have begun notifying national environmental justice organizations about the bizarre happenings at La Osa and other sites.

"We'll be meeting with other national groups to begin looking at a legal strategy with this," says Mike Smith, an attorney with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "There's no doubt we're all getting real interested in following this guy's activities."

As far as DEQ, Owens says, the investigations of the violations at La Osa will be combined with DEQ's continuing investigation of Johnson's activities along the Little Colorado River in Apache County.

"We will be combining all these outstanding matters into a comprehensive enforcement action," Owens tells New Times. "When we're finished, we'll turn it over to the Attorney General's Office for further enforcement action."

Dan Patterson of the Center for Biological Diversity says he and his staff plan to keep close track of the state's response to Johnson's activities.

"This stuff is so outrageous we'd like to see some criminal penalties applied," Patterson says.

E-mail robert.nelson@newtimes.com, or call 602-744-6549.

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