Falcon Golf Course, Mike Cowley

Being vice chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission did not give him unfair advantages in trying to facilitate development of the Falcon Golf Course, Mike Cowley says.

Goodyear and Litchfield Park residents were upset last month after learning of a “cross-dock” facility that could bring thousands of truck trips per day to Camelback Road.

The discovery that the owner of the Falcon Golf Course, site of the proposed industrial facility, was vice chairman of the Maricopa County Planning and Zoning Commission only added fuel to the residents’ fire.

“Mike Cowley is the president of Cowley Companies,”  said John Connolly, president of the Litchfield Greens HOA. “This is the same Mike Cowley that was the Planning and Zoning commissioner for District 3 and until March 2020 was the vice chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission. How is the president of a multi-million dollar company participating in the purchasing of properties when they are ultimately responsible for the planning and zoning of these exact properties?

“How is this somehow acceptable, ethical or legal?”

But Cowley, who is planning to sell the property to developer Kiernan West (KW Projects), said there is nothing nefarious about the process and that he received no special treatment. He said he is no longer on the commission, as his term expired in March.

If the project would have come while he was a commissioner, he said he would have simply recused himself from any vote. “Quite frequently, I had to recuse myself from projects I had” while he was a commissioner, he said.

As an example, he said he recused himself from an amendment for the master plan of Belmont, a residential development near Glendale. “I couldn’t vote on that, because I’m an owner,” Cowley said.

And, he insisted, being a commissioner didn’t give him an “inside lane” on project development or provide any special treatment. “I had nothing to do with day-to-day operations” of the Planning Department, Cowley said.

Bordered by Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Glendale and Luke Air Force Base, Falcon Golf Course is in unincorporated Maricopa County. Cowley Companies purchased the 150-acre Falcon Golf Course in 2016, Cowley said.

The cross-dock facility’s military compatibility permit was scheduled to be considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission in March, with a staff recommendation to “approve with conditions.”

It was delayed three times, first by two meeting cancellations, then when KW requested a delay from April 13 to May 14 “to allow for additional time to meet with various stakeholders so that we can better understand raised concerns.”

In addition to a cross-dock protest group that raised 2,000 online signatures, the cities of Litchfield Park and Goodyear sent letters to the county raising concerns about the project. According to a traffic impact study, the facility would generate 6,000 truck trips per day on Camelback Road.

“We are selling 80 acres to KW—they’re the ones going through the process, not us,” Cowley said.

Cowley said he was “scratching my head” over the strong reactions by the cities of Goodyear and Litchfield Park’s reactions to the cross-dock proposal.

“Falcon Golf Course is almost completely impacted by the noise contours of Luke Air Force Base. It cannot be developed as a residential project,” Cowley said.

“There really isn’t any other compatible use for the property other than to be industrial. … Unless it remains a golf course, there’s no other use for it.”

He reiterated that, with or without a sale to KW, Cowley Companies soon will close Falcon Golf Course.

“We didn’t buy it to run a golf course,” Cowley said. “It’s always been our intention to close the golf course once there was an industrial use for it.

“Golf courses don’t make money. They never make money.”

Asked about the negotiated sales price with KW, Cowley said, “I don’t remember.”

The “Falcon Participation Plan” submitted to the county in December lists as affected parties: “All property owners and homeowners associations within 300 feet of the property, other citizens, city of Goodyear, city of Glendale, Luke Air Force Base, Maricopa County Association of Governments, other political jurisdictions and public agencies that may be impacted by this application will be notified of the (Military Compatibility Permit) application.”

Notifying nearby residents was the easy part, Cowley said.

“There are no residences within 300 feet” of the golf course, he said.