Tag Archives: Maricopa County Assessor’s Office

golf

Closing golf course may create steep tax bill

A statute intended to support Arizona golf courses could take its toll on Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course owner Wilson Gee in the first situation of its kind by requiring him to pay 10 years of back taxes on the closed course, said David Boisvert, chief appraiser for the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office.

Under the golf statute, 42-13154, land that is classified as a golf course is valued at only $500 per acre, keeping the property tax relatively low, Boisvert said. But because Gee closed the golf course in May 2013, the land was reclassified as vacant land. Gee will now owe back taxes for the last 10 years plus interest and penalties, adding up to an estimated $1.6 million, Boisvert said.

“This is the first golf course that this has happened to that I know of in Maricopa County,” Boisvert said. “There are a number of others that potentially could go down the same path, but as of right now they’re the first ones that will be receiving the penalty for taking it out of golf.”

When a tax resolution is sent to a property owner they have 95 days to pay it, even if the owner has to pay back 10 years worth of taxes, said Charlotte Stevens from the Maricopa County Treasurer’s Office. Stevens said that she was unaware the statute even existed.

“We have a lot of golf courses, and the market for golf is just not like it used to be in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s and early 2000s,” Boisvert said.

Gee has not received a tax bill yet, Boisvert said. Gee was taxed on the value of the land as a golf course, but needs to be re-taxed on the balance he did not pay, he said.

“The assessor would have to send us a resolution increasing the taxes,” Stevens said. “We haven’t gotten that.”

Property owners can pay the total amount in full by the end of the year, or split it into two payments, said Cathy Sanchez, who also works in the treasurer’s office. Regardless of classification, the taxes follow the land, she said.

“And that’s the reason why it’s so important that when somebody exchanges property they understand who’s going to be paying what,” Sanchez said.

Pulte Homes, a residential development company headquartered in Atlanta, is planning to purchase the land from Gee, who owns four other golf courses in Ahwatukee. Both Gee and Pulte Homes were aware of the tax statute all along, said Jacque Petroulakis, who works in corporate communications for PulteGroup Inc. in Arizona.

According to the Pulte Ahwatukee website, the company plans to build no more than 250 single-family homes on the site. The neighborhood would also include landscaped open space on 38 percent of the property and buffer zones between existing homes and the new community.

“We’re providing owners with what we believe is a much better alternative than the current site, which will only continue to decline,” Petroulakis said.

In order to proceed with the development, Pulte Homes must meet the requirements of covenants, conditions and restrictions policy, Petroulakis said. CC&Rs allow for changes to take place with a majority consent in unforeseeable situations such as this one, she said.

“We’re seeking the approval of 50 percent of Ahwatukee homeowners before we would even proceed with zoning efforts,” Petroulakis said.

Community members opposed to the new development have formed a nonprofit group called Save the Lakes Inc. The group discourages Ahwatukee homeowners from complying with Pulte’s plans, which may make it difficult for Pulte Homes to get the signatures required to go ahead with the project.

According to the Save the Lakes website, “The proposed development will affect not only those people living directly on the course, but the community as a whole.”

Petroulakis said she thinks Pulte’s development plan is the best option for the community because Gee is prepared to sell the site no matter what. If the plans go through, Pulte Homes will donate an additional $1 million to the nearby Ahwatukee Country Club, another golf course owned by Gee, to help ensure the community that Gee is committed to keeping that course operating and thriving, she said.

“I think one thing that’s important to understand is that we would not be proposing this development if the golf course was not closed, the property were not for sale, and we did not believe our plan was a better option than the current deteriorating condition of the closed golf course,” Petroulakis said.

Property Taxes, AZRE Magazine May/June 2011

Property Taxes: Keep A Keen Eye On County Valuation Notices

What if your business was overcharged for its electricity, natural gas, or perhaps new computers or furniture? Most of us would take a look at our bills, determine where the mistakes occurred and then take the needed steps to resolve the discrepancies. But what if your business is being overcharged for its property taxes by thousands of dollars each year? Is there a course of action to fix this potentially costly problem? The answer is yes.

Each year, typically in February, the county assessor releases “postcard” valuations for each property in the county. In some cases, these valuations exceed the properties’ market value. The problem that we see in Arizona is that many people do not take notice of their property taxes until the county treasurer’s office mails its annual tax bill. But in Arizona, you cannot protest your taxes — only the postcard valuation. Therefore, the time to review your property taxes is when your values are mailed in February, not when you receive your tax bills in October.

What does this mean for local business owners?

Without protesting a postcard valuation, a business owner’s taxes may be substantially higher. In many cases, they need not be. If a business owner paid $4M for an office building last year, on average, the owner will owe approximately $100,000 in real property taxes. However, if the county assessor values the property at $7M based on its computerized mass appraisal, and the business owner does not protest, the owner’s taxes may exceed $175,000.

Why would my property be overvalued?

Over the past several years we have seen significant changes in commercial values, with prices quickly rising in 2005 and 2006, and falling over the past couple of years. Today, however, there are signs of hope. According to William Spart, senior vice president of Wells Fargo Bank, “some submarkets and property types, including apartments, are showing signs of firming up.”

These drastic changes in the market over the past several years have made it difficult for county assessors to determine property value. It is not feasible for the assessors to separately analyze the unique characteristics of each and every parcel. Therefore, the assessor must rely on a blanket formulary approach that attempts to classify buildings and land into various categories to produce a valuation.

The positive is that many people, including Pete Bolton, executive vice president and managing director of Grubb & Ellis, says he believe that we are at the bottom of the market. According to Bolton, the “market has definitely stabilized and we are seeing five to seven main groups, including the FDIC, national banks, CMBS special servicers and others slowly releasing property to the market with market values bouncing along the bottom.”

What if I recently acquired my property?

In Arizona, real property is assessed on an annual basis by the assessor’s office of the county, where the property is physically located. Property tax values are released around February prior to the tax year. While existing owners of real property are required to file all administrative protests within 60 days of release of the postcard values, Arizona has special rules for new owners.

Under Arizona law, new owners have the ability to either take over the old owners’ appeal or if an appeal was not filed, they can typically appeal their valuation to the County Superior Court until Dec. 15 of the valuation year. If the prior owner did not appeal the current year taxes (prior year’s postcard values), you may be able to appeal these taxes as well.

For more information about property taxes, visit wwptax.com.

AZRE Magazine May/June 2011