Arizona Airports Lose A Round

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A bill that would have allowed airports on state land in Arizona to get leases of 20 years instead of the current 10 failed last week in the state legislature. The bill's sponsors blamed pressure from Luke Air Force Base, which is close to Pleasant Valley Airport near Phoenix. The Air Force has said that there is enough air traffic already, and it doesn't want the airport to grow. Meanwhile, the airport's current lease will expire in two years, and the airport operator says he needs longer time frames to build his business, justify investments and qualify for federal funding. Local officials have said they will probably renew the lease for another 10 years, but by then they will probably be ready to carve up the surrounding pasturelands for residential development -- and the airport itself is likely to go next. Roy Coulliette has operated the airport for 30 years. "It's scary," he told the West Valley Independent Newspapers. "It doesn't give us a warm feeling. And it's not just us. The longer we wait the more airports the land department is going to close down. We're pretty secure for the next year and 10 months, but in the meantime they could close down half the airports in Arizona."