Pima County to use Arizona Military Installation funds to buy open space

During the public hearings for consideration of a future site for the Air Force’s F-35, Pima County and City of Tucson officials were virtually invisible and did little to generate support from the community for the plane, while other communities fought hard for the right to house the aircraft.

As Tucsonans face the possibility that Davis Monthan Air Force Base will likely be considered for closure should the A-10 aircraft be mothballed, Pima County has been hard at work to use the base as a reason to acquire more open space.

In April 2012, Donald Diamond and Priscilla Storm wrote a letter to Brig. Gen. Paul T. Johnson addressing “continued conversations with DMFAB and Pima County, Diamond Ventures” and advising that as a result, they have “reviewed our land holdings in the approach and departure paddle of Davis Monthan Air Force Base.”

The letter concludes with a request for the “Base’s support for the County’s purchase of our acreage using Davis Monthan Air Force Base Open Space funds.”

Over time, the County purchased property from Diamond affiliates in proximity to the approach and departure paddle of Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

At the November 2013 meeting of the Military Affairs Commission, John Burk, Senior Executive Officer Department of Emergency & Military Affairs, directed the commissioners to consider the application of Rocking K Holdings LP. According to the minutes, Burk explains “that the application includes community partners and many letters of support from Tucson and the installation and asks for a motion of consideration.”

The Minutes read:

MOTION: Consider Rocking K application at Davis-Monthan AFB
Second: Mayor Krieger
Motion approved 7-0

Mayor Krieger asks about Pima County Open Land $10 million bond fund.

Commissioner Storm advises that all such County bond funds have been expended.
Co-chair Lisa Atkins makes motion to advance the Rocking K application.

MOTION: Co-chair Atkins: recommend purchase of 33 acres, all parcels, of Rocking K Holdings LP application at Davis-Monthan AFB.
Second: Mayor Krieger
Motion approved 7-0

The applicant, Rocking K Holdings LP, is an affiliate of Diamond Ventures. The Rocking K Holdings application for Military Installation funds was handled by Diamond Venture’s Vice-President Priscilla Storm.

In the application for funding, the request was made on the basis that the acquisition of the property was “for reserving real estate from development or mitigating impact on development in high noise or accident potential zones in areas necessary to support military installation.”

The applicant requested $843,750 for the parcel.

According to the application, “Prior to initiation of the Joint Land Use Study for Davis Monthan Air Force Base, the applicant had significant market interest, prospective buyers and development potential for its property. The City of Tucson adopted a Special Exception Policy which applied to land in proximity of DMAFB. The Special Exception Process prohibited land owners from utilizing their existing zoning without going through a legislative process. The functionality stopped real estate market activity and halted any development until JLUS was completed.

The property was purchased in February of 1996.

The Rocking K property is approximately 50 feet from a high density neighborhood.

The property has various other commercial properties nearby and/or neighboring it.

The Springs Gymnasium is located in the immediate area. The applicants note that the gymnasium is used by area children.

The Rocking K property is located on the outside edge of the Davis Monthan flight path, approximately 1.42 miles across a high density area away from Davis Monthan property, and approximately 5 miles away from the end of the Davis Monthan runway.

According to the minutes of the meeting: “Commissioner Priscilla Storm asked who was present from private property owners. The Evans from Gila Bend and Candee Stout are acknowledged. She thanked them for attending and expressed hope that the Military Installation Fund would be restored so that future applications may be approved.”

Commissioner Pricilla Storm did not recuse herself from the vote to approve the funding for Pima County to acquire the Rocking K land.

The purpose of Arizona’s Conflict of Interest Laws is to prevent self-dealing by public officials. A.R.S. §38-501(A) applies to all public officers and employees of the state and any of its departments, commissions, agencies, bodies or boards.

It is generally accepted that those with Conflicts of Interest, or even the appearance of a potential Conflict of Interest, disclose their interest in the official records of the public agency, recuse themselves and refrain from participating in any manner in the decision or contract. This includes recusing oneself from any discussion of the matter.

According to the Rocking K application: Recently, the State, in order to support the long term mission sustainability and economic health of military facilities allows cities, counties, and towns to “consider the following innovative approaches to reserve residential quality of life and ensure compatible land uses:

Properties are evaluated based on the following criteria:
a. How the project will preserve and/or enhance the military installation
b. Availability of additional funding for the project from other sources
c. The degree to which acquisition of the property will prevent or reduce encroachment of the military installation and/or the ability to reserve operational activities and mission objectives of the installation
d. Past actions taken to preserve the installation or mitigate impacts
e. Whether the project will improve the location of the base, land, facilities, or associated airspace through multi-use opportunities and
f. If and how the project will mitigate impacts of the military installation on the surrounding community.

In light of the fact that the property in question does not obviously appear to meet the stated criteria, questions are being raised as to how the Rocking K Property was given consideration while other applications were rejected.

Background:

The Military Installation Fund (MIF) was established by Governor Janet Napolitano upon the December 2003 recommendation by the Governor’s Military Facilities Task Force. On May 17, 2004, Napolitano signed House Bill 2140, a comprehensive military omnibus bill that included the establishment of the Military Installation Fund (MIF), “in order to acquire property that is directly impacted by the function of Arizona’s military installations in order to preserve the operational jurisdiction of the facility and protect residential from noise encroachment and negative environmental impacts.”

According to the application, in that same year, $10 million was approved by the Pima County voters specifically for the acquisition of open space which helped reduce encroachment, increase compatibility and preserve the Bases’ current and future operations. Pima County established a Davis Monthan open Space Advisory Committee. The Committee established the following set of priorities for acquisition: 1) private ownership, 2) vacant/undeveloped properties, 3) properties with non-conforming residential or commercial zoning with conflicts with the DMAFB Joint Land Use Study restrictions and development standard, 4) proximity to runway, 5) owner willingness to sell, and 6) contiguity or grouping of parcels, 7) cost, and 8) opinion of DMAFB.

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