Tag Archives: planning

Planning and Zoning

Planning & Zoning: November 2013

City of Scottsdale
The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) has proposed the widening of the Loop 101 Freeway from the Loop 202 to Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale. ADOT has hosted public meetings inviting interested parties to learn the details of this project. Construction for the freeway widening is expected to begin in late summer of 2014. Additional information is available by contacting Felicia Beltran with ADOT at fbeltran@adot.gov.

City of Surprise
In November, Surprise residents will be asked to approve a new general plan that, if the plan succeeds with the vote, will give the city a comprehensive guide for future residential and business development, transportation needs and parks & recreational improvements. The City’s General Plan 2035 is the result of extensive public outreach and puts a greater emphasis on sustainable living that would include public transportation and public street links throughout the city, along with bicycle and pedestrian paths with connections between neighborhoods. A City Council appointed citizens committee began a redo of the proposed plan in May 2012 with public meetings, surveys and field visits to local gathering spots to seek resident input. The new general plan also advocates creating a master plan to encourage the development of public art and cultural events, facilities and districts within the city and emphasizes the need for sustainable development. For more information on the contents of the plan, visit surpriseaz.gov/generalplan.

City of Goodyear
The City of Goodyear has been working on its general plan update. Drafts of portions of the plan were sent out to a citizen committee and to other interested parties for review earlier this year. Additional chapters of the plan have been posted on goodyearconnects.com for review by the general public. In addition, various public meetings have been scheduled throughout the year. The complete draft is to be presented to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council for discussion at a joint work session in October. The public is also invited to send comments on the plan. To contribute comments or obtain additional information, contact Katie Wilken at katie.wilken@goodyearaz.gov, or at (623) 932-3005.

Pinal County
In an effort to attract businesses, new development and jobs to Pinal County, the Development Services Department is proposing ways for easing the development review process. To accomplish this goal, the county has initiated a program to reduce the time it takes for permit approvals. This program includes changes in the concept review process and the addition of a Pre-Application Meeting, which will allow staff to review the essence of a development proposal before the formal application. The county claims these changes will save the applicant time and costs. In addition to these changes, the county also proposes changes to the rezoning and to the PAD process that will reduce the time needed for that process from the existing 15 weeks to a proposed 11 to 13 weeks. Processing changes include the dividing of PAD/rezone applications into required documents and background documents. The required documents would be specifically listed with approvals based solely on the information required on the list. Background documents would be intended as informational only and would not be a part of approvals. These changes are intended to shorten review times. A board of supervisors meeting has been scheduled to review and approve these changes. For additional information, contact the Pinal County Department of Planning and Development at (520) 866-6442.

City of Flagstaff
In July, the City of Flagstaff City Council agreed, in principal, to give applicants seeking a zoning change the option to submit a so-called “concept-zoning plan” in an effort to expedite rezoning requests and to make it less of a financial burden for the applicant. The city currently requires, as do most cities, a detailed site plan and a number of engineering studies, such as a traffic study, a drainage study and water and sewer studies, before considering a change to an existing zoning district designation. The concept-zoning plan would permit approval of the requested change in zoning without a detailed site plan or the studies. The site plan and the studies would still be required, but only after the request was approved. However, in recent meetings, some commissioners and citizens expressed non-support of this proposed amendment. The opposition to the amendment suggests that it could lead to “speculative” zoning changes, which in turn could lead to higher land costs and, eventually, to higher housing cost.

City of Avondale
Avondale has initiated comprehensive text amendments to its zoning ordinance. Drafted amendments to the existing ordinance include a new suburban residential zoning district; temporary sign amendments; a new historic Avondale infill overlay district; and landscaping requirement changes. These staff-initiated text amendments take place periodically to ensure the city stays progressive and responds to the development community’s needs and industry standards and changes. Scheduled public meetings have been held to give residents, business owners and other interested parties the opportunity to participate and provide feedback on the proposed text amendments. For further information, please contact Jennifer Fostino with the Avondale Planning Division at (623) 333-4022 or jfostino@avondale.org.

The P&Z column is compiled by Dave Coble and George Cannataro with Coe & Van Loo Consultants, cvlci.com

Mill Ave in Tempe, Arizona

2 Valley Treasures Will Receive A Little TLC

Phoenix (November 29, 2010) – The Tempe City Council recently voted unanimously to move forward with plans to restore Papago Park and Mill Avenue. The Papago Park restoration plans focus on improvements to marketing and park amenities while Mill Avenue will receive some much needed clean-up and landscaping.

Papago Park Master PlanPapago Park Master Plan – The cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale together with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) joined forces to conduct a public planning process to develop a vision and series of recommendations to guide the future of Papago Park as a premier regional park serving these cities and the larger region. Papago Park is situated in the heart of the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area at the intersection of the municipal boundaries of Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale.

master plan is to protect, preserve and enhance the physical, social, recreational and cultural resources the park provides to the regionThe park’s 2,000 acres include recreational open space and a wide variety of privately owned and leased facilities which serve a myriad of users. The intent of the master plan is to protect, preserve and enhance the physical, social, recreational and cultural resources the park provides to the region which will hopefully provide the ingredients necessary to achieve ‘Great American Park’ status.

Papago Park Regional master planThe Tempe City Council recently approved their City’s part of the Papago Park Regional master plan. The comprehensive planning process, embarked upon jointly by the cities and SRPMIC, resulted in a plan that includes measures aimed at restoring key areas of the park and promoting it as a single attraction. The master plan addresses the deficiencies in marketing efforts for the Park, which includes such tourist attractions as the Phoenix Zoo and the Desert Botanical Garden which are self-promoted. The Council’s approval includes a plan that proposes signage, advertising and better connections between trails in the park to encourage visitors to see more than one attraction during day trips. Mayor Hugh Hallman focused on the promotion of some of the park’s Native American ruins, which include art and landmarks used by the Hohokam, who settled the Salt River Valley in the 400s. He feels very strongly about the interest of visitors in such sites as Hole in the Rock.

plans to improve Mill AvenueMill Avenue - City Council also approved plans to improve Mill Avenue with the collaboration of the Downtown Tempe Community. A private company that helps businesses on Mill with marketing and outreach, the DTC will soon begin employing crews to clean up trash on the street and remove graffiti six days a week. The DTC crews will double as ambassadors who can answer visitors’ questions and distribute district maps. The City will provide landscape improvements in the medians.

Through this process, DTC and the City have also worked together to address the issues of business owners in the district. Their efforts include distributing a flyer to better illustrate the problems that business owners have with damage, litter, graffiti etc. in order to connect the business owners with the various City or DTC departments that can help resolve those issues which have long been a source of confusion.

Estate Tax Laws Are In Flux - AZ Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

Estate Tax Laws Are In Flux — Start Strategizing Now

Let’s begin with a reasonably well-founded observation: The official repeal this year of estate taxes has seriously flawed most testamentary plans and created mild chaos for estate practitioners. Traditionally, estate planning attorneys have employed “word formula” dispositions phrased in terms of tax concepts for their drafted wills and trusts. For example, for people with larger estates, dispositions are divided into two categories:

One portion equal to the unused estate tax exemption often called the unified credit or the credit shelter trust for the benefit of a surviving spouse and descendents.

The other portion is allocated to equal the “optimum” marital deduction amount, usually expressed as the minimum amount necessary to reduce a person’s federal estate tax to zero.

In other cases, testators will cause a portion of their estate to equal the unused generation skipping tax (GST) exemption to pass in favor of or for the benefit of grandchildren. The word formula is applied because, historically, it has resulted in the optimal division or disposition of a decedent’s property.

Unfortunately, none of the above has any meaning if the concepts used to define them are no longer represented by federal statute. Accordingly, decedents of 2010 and their beneficiaries are confronted with impossible circumstances. An unintended outcome is the possible disinheritance of a surviving spouse or children.

Another interesting issue relates to existing generation-skipping trusts that are normally subject to GST on taxable distributions to “skip persons.” In
2010, none of the taxable distributions or “taxable terminations” will be subject to the tax. Possibly, the optimum outcome has arrived for GST trusts.

Within the current environment, grandparents can literally transfer fortunes to grandchildren and be subject to a one-time 35 percent gift tax.

Caution is appropriate, however, because it is impossible to predict what Congress will do. From a constitutional perspective, retroactive legislation remains a risk. If Congress retroactively reinstated estate and GST tax law, which Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has formally pledged to accomplish, then the above identified actions would be problematic.

Reinstatement of the estate tax system, notwithstanding a valid constitutional argument, would represent a symbol of poor legislation, in this author’s opinion. Here’s why: Executors and trustees of estates created in 2010, as fiduciaries, must act on current law and distribute inherited assets in a timely fashion. Would it not be legally awkward for Congress to force executors and trustees to rescind those distributions and formally adjust all 2010 estate tax returns?

So given the testamentary chaos resulting from the political process, what can we expect? Many practitioners believe legislation will occur that will reinstate the 45 percent tax rate for estate and GST applications with a $3.5 million unified exemption for each spouse. But, if Congress fails to act this year, then beginning in 2011, we will face the imposition of a 55 percent tax rate and a $1 million unified exemption. Given the current federal budget crisis, inaction will produce higher tax revenue.

This uncertain environment may provide compelling reasons for proactive folks to act. Seek qualified help with your own estate planning issues now — not later.

Philanthropic causes are becoming more meaningful to us
Everyone has been affected in some way by the deep recession. As a result, nonprofit service demand is up, but contributions are down. However, more people are contributing their time and efforts to help others. Due to a strong philanthropic lobby and the generous nature of American values, Congress has not tinkered with key charitable planning techniques. Many creative planning options exist that can help one accomplish their nonprofit objectives and enjoy enormous tax and estate benefits.

Source: Coyote Financial

Trends in Estate Planning:
More families are seeking qualified help with their financial lives

Interestingly, the revolution in technology and communication has not changed the desire or need for a personal advisory (coaching) relationship with someone deemed competent and trustworthy. Technology may help you find the right person, but no substitute is yet available for a caring, personal relationship.

Opportunities in Estate Planning

  • A grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT) is an estate planning technique that allows one to utilize the currently low federal discount rate to transfer assets to the next generation in exchange for a note. All appreciation, above the interest payment, inures in favor of the next generation. Short-term, zeroed out GRATs have been popular, resulting in significant estate tax savings for many wealthy families. The House Ways and Means Committee has passed a bill designed to eliminate short-term GRATs and zeroed out techniques. President Obama has proposed (endorsed) similar legislation that would require a 10-year term and no zero out gifting for GRATs. The opportunity for short-term, zeroed out GRATs could disappear in the next several months.
  • Congress has pending legislation to limit fractional discounts for lack of control and marketability applicable to intra-family transfers. Historically, when assets are placed into properly drafted limited liability companies (LLCs) and family limited partnerships (FLPs), discounts on the transfers to children of financial units or limited units, respectively, apply. For the present, case law and court verdicts honor the integrity of fractional discounts. As in the proposed GRAT legislation, the new rules will not apply retroactively and will only take effect coincidental to formal enactment. Keep in mind that the Treasury Department is desperately seeking methods to raise revenue. The opportunity to sell, transfer or gift assets inclusive of a fractional discount, especially among family members, may disappear in the next several months.
  • In 1995, the federal discount rate represented 9.5 percent. Today, the rate ranges between 3.4 percent and 3.6 percent. The discount rate is indirectly associated with the applicable federal rate (AFR), which can be utilized on an “arms-length basis” to make loans to children. For example, the current mid-term intermediate rate equals 2.85 percent, whereas demand-note interest rates are currently less than 1 percent. The opportunity to initiate intra-family personal or business loans at de minimis interest rates could disappear in the next several years.
  • Since generation skipping taxes have been repealed for the 2010 tax year, and the federal gift tax rate has been reduced from 45 percent to 35 percent, the opportunity to transfer/gift assets to grandchildren is economically advantageous, as noted previously. The opportunity to transfer assets to grandchildren without the imposition of estate and generation skipping tax may disappear under new legislative regulations in the next several months.
  • Because of recent market conditions, the valuation of business and real estate assets has potentially decreased. Accordingly, the cost to sell or gift assets to the next generation is lower than it may have been in 2007. The opportunity to transfer assets to family members using low valuations may disappear in the next several years.
  • Source: Coyote Financial

    Arizona Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

    world currency

    Companies Need To Start Thinking About Converting To International Financial Reporting Standards

    More than 100 countries have already adopted or base their own accounting standards on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Last August, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved for public comment its long-awaited proposed roadmap for the eventual use of IFRS by U.S. companies.

    The proposal foresees that early adoption of IFRS could happen as soon as this year for very large companies. For others, mandatory reporting under IFRS could begin in 2014, 2015 or 2016, depending on the size of the company.

    Why think about it now?
    With the global financial crisis, business owners may backburner IFRS in favor of more immediate issues. That’s understandable, but it may not be the right approach. If you are contemplating new finance systems or software purchases, for example, the systems you implement today will likely require modifications to ensure that the accounting, tax planning and compliance processes continue to operate effectively and efficiently under IFRS.

    While CPAs regularly adjust to evolving accounting rules and standards, my experience with some of the largest companies in Arizona has shown that focusing on longer-term issues such as the implementation of IFRS can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Learning to “speak IFRS” may be challenging, but it will lead to increased transparency and investor confidence, and when that happens, everyone wins.

    As a general rule, IFRS standards are broader than those of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP), and there are fewer bright lines and less interpretive guidance. In addition, IFRS has far-reaching effects beyond the accounting differences, and will involve every area of the company, beginning with the way data is gathered and processed to how debt covenants are written to the metrics against which executives and employees are measured. Conversion will take focus, planning, time and resources. Getting comfortable with IFRS now will make the transition easier for the entire company.

    Timely training will be one key to a successful transition — and not just for staff. Investors and analysts will need to be educated about the effect IFRS will have on financial statements. Audit committee members will need to become familiar with IFRS to function effectively in their oversight roles and to understand management’s strategies. These activities should not wait until the new reporting standards are actually in use.

    IFRS 101
    The first step in any conversion is a gap analysis, or diagnostic, that compares reporting under US GAAP to reporting under IFRS. In addition to the reporting differences, the diagnostic will identify the main business effects of conversion, any tax ramifications and hurdles to conversion that may occur in the present finance structure, and will discover if the company has the resources to carry out the conversion in-house.

    The diagnostic will also provide a timeline on who should be trained, when they should be trained and in what they should be trained. In designing a training program, your primary question should be, “What do we need to do to be ready on time?” As with all decisions, it’s important to be strategic. Educating the accounting and finance organizations is a given, as well as the information technology team. But it’s also important to involve other departments affected by the conversion early on in the process (e.g., investor relations, HR, sales and marketing) to make sure conversion is embedded in your business.

    Human resources will need to understand how key performance criteria for incentive compensation may be affected by the conversion. In addition, accounting for stock-based compensation is significantly different under IFRS than under US GAAP. Tax professionals will require training on the conversion methodology, as well as on new IFRS accounting principles, to ensure appropriate tax planning and reporting of the tax provision, balance sheet accounts and tax return information. The legal team will need to examine debt, equity and lease financing arrangements; long-term customer contracts and long-term sourcing agreements, among others. The internal auditor’s enterprise-wide purview positions it well toprovide consistency, oversight and control to all areas throughout the conversion process.

    IFRS conversion most likely will be the largest, single change of accounting policies and procedures ever undertaken by U.S. companies. It is also an interesting challenge for businesses and provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to review and synchronize the processes and procedures that touch the entire organization. Ultimately, the business “owns” the conversion, and the more fluently it “speaks IFRS,” the better off it will be.