Glendale Assails El Mirage for Not Bending Over "In All Ways" to Luke Air Force Base

El Mirage just can't catch a break.

For decades, the small West Valley community has been steamrolled, dismissed, and mocked by neighboring cities, mostly because they believe that El Mirage and its policies pose a threat to Luke Air Force Base.

The city was recently assailed by Glendale over draft updates to its General Plan, a long-range planning guide required by state law.

It's usually a routine, rather boring process that requires public input from residents and surrounding communities. Not this time.

Glendale officials fired off a seven-page missive to El Mirage that may have contained some legitimate concerns -- but it was difficult to read beyond its condescending tone.

During the 80's and 90's, military officials and neighboring cities repeatedly opposed economic development projects in the 11-square-mile El Mirage, including plans for a resort, a convention center and an auto mall. The goal was to ensure the viability of Luke, even if it was at El Mirage's expense.

After all, who in Arizona is really going to side with a once-migrant community over the $2.1 billion that Luke injects annually into the state's economy?

Not surprisingly, it's now Glendale that has a resort and a couple of convention centers. Other cities, like Surprise, are also getting a solid share of economic development. El Mirage is far

That's just fine with Glendale and others Valley leaders who pledge their undying allegiance to Luke AFB but conveniently don't experience a fraction of the unpleasant affects of the base -- such as noise and building restrictions -- that come with living near a military installation.

Before they picked apart El Mirage's community vision outlined in its General Plan, Glendale makes sure to reiterate that "as you know, Glendale has enjoyed a robust partnership with Luke Air Force Base for decades." (Those would be the same decades during which El Mirage's growth was stymied.)

Glendale goes on to question the legality of El Mirage's plans for its downtown development, proposed building heights, and residential density. At nearly every turn, Glendale suggests, El Mirage officials apparently violate the sanctity of the military base.

At the heart of the issues is this: Too much residential or commercial development in El Mirage poses an encroachment risk for Luke AFB. More people usually means a greater potential for complaints about jet engines screeching overhead or about property rights.

And conventional wisdom is that the feds would just as soon shut down a base than deal with whiny residents.

Another problem is that about two-thirds of El Mirage sits underneath Luke AFB's noise contours and crash zones. Those are the invisible footprints where noise is the loudest and jets are most likely to fall from the sky. And where growth is sharply restricted.

It's a no-win situation for El Mirage, as officials try to balance protecting Luke with residents' quality of life and the community's financial health.

Even when El Mirage states that it wants to "work with Luke Air Force Base to minimize aircraft noise in the city," Glendale manages to criticize.

Glendale officials said that approach "demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the vital mission of Luke AFB and does not demonstrate the willingness of EI Mirage to accommodate in all ways the present and future needs of Luke AFB to continue its training mission."

Accommodate in all ways the present and future needs of Luke AFB?

And just who is supposed to accommodate in all ways the present and future needs of El Mirage?

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo