Tag Archives: Vanessa Hickman

Photo by Shavon Rose/AZ Big Media

Vanessa Hickman resigns for role at ASU

On Jan. 9, Arizona State Land Commissioner Vanessa Hickman informed Gov. Doug Ducey of her resignation. Hickman has accepted a role at Arizona State University, which she will pursue after Jan. 12.

Hickman has worked at the Arizona State Land Department for five years and has been the commissioner since Nov. 2012. As state land commissioner, she oversaw the use of 9.3 million acres of State Trust Land. In 2013, under Hickman’s leadership, the ASLD sold more land in one year than any other year in the department’s history.

“Moving forward, I aspire to help improve the business as usual perspective on the intersect between real estate development, regulatory impacts and natural resource management with the support of a world renowned higher learning institution,” she wrote.

At ASU, Hickman will create an initiative to explore the issues impacting real estate, natural resources and economic development.

“I am confident this initiative will prove useful to the State of Arizona, Arizona State University and many others interested in thoughtful land use,” she wrote.



Vanessa Hickman discusses trust land in Arizona

Arizona State Land Commissioner Vanessa Hickman

Arizona State Land Commissioner Vanessa Hickman

Arizona State Land Commissioner Vanessa Hickman manages the leasing, sale and highest use of roughly 9.2 million acres of Arizona State Trust land, a huge portion of which is meant for K-12 education. As the president of the Western States Land Commissioners Association, to which Phoenix is the winter conference host Jan. 4 through 8 at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, Hickman answered questions about important land issues.

Sales in past two years: $100
Sales proposals in the pipeline: $1B
Commercial ground leases being negotiated in urban areas: $1B over term
ASLD has negotiated and approved: 3 solar leases and 3 wind farms on state trust land


The effects of these acts, as they continue and are expanded, could have major impacts on State Trust Lands and other lands across the state. They have the potential to severely restrict development opportunities, require additional off-sets and set-asides and subsequently lower land values for most types of urban and rural lands. The ultimate impacts could severely hinder economic development and land values in Arizona for years to come.

A TRUSTED LEGACY – When Arizona became a state in 1912, it was endowed with 10 million acres of land to be held in trust and to benefit public institutions, most of which is dedicated to K-12 education. Today, there are about 9.26 million acres still held in trust. Here is where they fall.

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The most important thing land management agencies, private development entities and all interested parties can do is engage. We need to study and understand the proposals, such as the new CWA rule regarding Army Corps 404 jurisdiction, and make comments to the appropriate federal agencies regarding out findings and opinions. We need to understand the type, number and extent of new species being proposed to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing as endangered species and be prepared to make our comments and opinions known. We need to question all new actions, be proactive to every degree possible and be prepared to deal with possible listings of proposed threatened or endangered species through responding with sound science, exploring available options, including candidate conservation agreements with assurances, habitat conservation plans and any other means to limit the ultimate impacts of exiting of proposed endangered species. We need to collaborate — public and private sector — as interested and impacted parties and work together and with the federal agencies to make our positions known and work toward equitable solutions.



The land department has historically sold and leased land for conservation purposes. One example would be the long-term ground lease of state land for mitigation due to development impacting habitat of a threatened or endangered species. The state could also enter into agreements for mitigation banks, a partnership where a state land lessee could pay for and provide for conservation of state lands, receive credits for impacted 404 washes in order to develop other state or private lands, or sell credits to other parties generation additional compensation for the trust. The motivation of a developer would be to generate revenue for the sale of credits or to have a reliable and secure source of mitigation or conservation lands, which they would need to secure in order to allow their project to go forward, pursuant to requirements of federal law.


Mining is an important component of the Arizona State Land Department’s (ASLD) land
and resource management portfolio. The ASLD manages mining and mineral activity by
authorizing mineral exploration, production, aggregate development, oil and gas leases, and
Special Land Use Permits for a variety of other revenue-producing, mining-related activities.
Income to the Trust from mining and mineral activity is generated primarily from royalties
paid on mineral production. Total income to the Trust during fiscal year 2014 was more than
$16 million. Well over half of that revenue was generated by copper production.
Interest in mining exploration has remained constant throughout the years and is
spread throughout the Trust land portfolio. Over the past three fiscal years, the ASLD has
processed thousands of mineral-related applications with two-thirds of those for mineral
exploration. Mining activity on State Trust lands are important economic drivers to local
communities by generating jobs and supporting local and regional businesses. Mining
production contributes important resources and economic benefits to our state and national
manufacturing needs. — Richard Thompson, Director, Natural Resource Division, ASLD


Occasionally, land owners and managers are faced with situations that have a negative
effect on the value and use of their property. For example, one landowner may find
the economic value of his parcel of land is diminished because it is trapped within the
boundaries of another land owner where it lacks physical, feasible or legal access of any
kind. When that trapped land is located within the boundaries of federally owned land, such
as a military reservation or national monument, the solution can become very complex. A
tool of land owners and managers that is thought to have value in solving such ownership
problems is the “land exchange.”
The Arizona State Land Commissioner may now conduct land exchanges following a
2012 amendment to the State Constitution, as referred by the legislature and approved by
the voters. Proposed land exchanges will take time to complete and will be subject to many
procedural requirements. Final approval is conditioned upon a favorable, statewide vote. The
Arizona State Land Department is now implementing this program.
— Richard Thompson, Director, Natural Resource Division, ASLD


Monies generated from the permanent trust fund, and expendable revenues generated from things such as leases and permits are distributed directly to the trust beneficiaries. The permanent trust fun now totals $4.5B, which is twice what it was only five years ago. Sales and commercial leases account for the majority of revenue generated by the ASLD and average about 80 percent of our revenues


Valley Partnership Amplifies Voice of Responsible Development

Karrin Taylor

Karrin Taylor

Vanessa Hickman

Vanessa Hickman

Carolyn Oberholtzer

Carolyn Oberholtzer

Richard Hubbard

Richard Hubbard

When municipalities have development-related issue at stake, one of the first organizations they call is Valley Partnership. Advocacy for responsible development is the driving force of the 27-year-old organization, which often takes a stance on behalf of its busy members. The issues range from state legislation and statewide issues such as land reform efforts, Government Property Lease Excise Tax (GPLET), copper theft and economics of Luke Air Force Base. Leading into 2014, the organzation is in the midst of community district financing.
Many members have taken turns sitting on VP’s advocacy committees, with a focus on city and county to federal influence, but no one has more ears to the ground than DMB Associate’s Karrin Taylor. Taylor is the immediate past chair of the board and has sat on multiple committees.

“(VP’s advocacy) started out many years ago working at the local level and coming out of an era when anything related to development or developers wasn’t seen in best light,” says Taylor. The most robust is the City County Committee, Taylor says, which is represented by a laundry list of the Valley’s municipalities. About four years ago, Valley Partnership got involved on a federal level with the Clean Water and Endangered Species acts. The committee has since turned into a roundtable for the congressional offices as well as a forum for educating members of the development community, Taylor observes.

“Through that legacy, we’ve become the voice of the development community and local jurisdictions. Before they proceed with ordinances, they call us,” she says. “Valley Partnership really represents the entire industry. We’re seen as the one that has to look at things holistically.” Valley Partnership’s working relationship with the cities is based on communication and trust, says the organization’s CEO and President Richard Hubbard.

“Using regular meetings between private sector developers and municipal staffers, we are able to discuss and resolve potential issues related to commercial real estate regulation prior to those issues becoming problems. Through more than 27 years of this process and the resolutions of dozens of complicated issues related to oversight of commercial development, experience has led both developers and the cities to rely on each other’s expertise with the common goal of effectively building quality projects.”

As mentioned earlier, one of Valley Partnership’s slogans is that it advocates for developer issues so its members can focus on business. When an issue arises, Taylor says, Hubbard will give a “call to arms” so members are aware of an issue and committee members can work on an industry response. “We rely on them to take the leadership role and managing issues as they arise,” Taylor says. “The relevance of the organization as a reasonable and educated voice of issues facing the development community (is its greatest achievement).”

Taylor serves as President of the Foundation for Environmental and Economic Progress (FEEP), which represents major landowners and stakeholders across the country in the advancement of balanced federal environmental law and policy on endangered species acts and wetlands issues. Hubbard served as the Deputy Arizona State Land Commissioner and during his time generated more than $1B in sale and lease revenue for the trust’s beneficiaries, Arizona Public Education. It was the most profitable period of the department in its century-long existence. In a similar vein, current Arizona State Land Commissioner Vanessa Hickman has been on the board of Valley Partnership for 2.5 years and prior to that was a member in the private sector.
Among the organization’s most significant advances at the legislature, says Hubbard, is the years-long work to preserve the GPLET.

“Our developer partners have used the GPLET tool to develop some of the most important real estate projects in the Valley,” he says, adding, “We are also the biggest watchdog of preserving reasonable impact fees applicable to commercial real estate. Valley Partnership has also worked to support other economic development incentives designed to bring new employers to Arizona including the formation of the Arizona Commerce Authority.”

What comes to mind for Hickman was the northern expansion of the Black Mountain Freeway. Valley Partnership backed the development due to transportation’s role in allowing for economic growth and clearing traffic congestion. On that issue, Valley Partnership drafted a letter to the City of Phoenix advocating for the project to move forward.
Valley Partnership has also taken a stance on the extension of long-term leases. The organization advocated the legislature change the statutes so that during the recession people could pay their rent with more time.

Land-use and entitlement lawyer Carolyn Oberholtzer, partner at Bergin, Frakes, Smalley & Oberholzter, has been a Valley Partnership member since 2004 and has sat on the board for four years. She works with municipalities and counties on development project phases and has handled entitlements for some of Arizona’s largest masterplanned communities, commercial, industrial and renewable energy facilities. She was retained by Valley Partnership in 2007 to work on a parking calculations issue in Buckeye that she says could have potentially hurt retail development in the city. Oberholtzer worked in tandem with VP’s on-staff lobbyist.

Oberholtzer, with Hickman, sits on the City County Committee and worked on impact fees and what the effect would be on large land owners and the ability to plan on infrastructure in the future. The committee worked diligently, Hickman says, on what the legislation would look like. “We really engaged with this latest go around with the impact-fee legislation,” Oberholtzer adds. “Some of the stakeholder groups were bitterly divided. We got involved to iron out a solution. We’re living with the results. It’s not perfect legislation but that’s where we try to be most helpful. Where there are areas of disagreement between developers and municipalities.”

“I think the members, we, all have our respective missions and goals for the organizations we represent,” Hickman says. “We live in Arizona and we want this to be a beautiful place to work and raise our families, so to understand that development happens in a progressive way and is thoughtful and well-planned and not done in a way that will adversely impact our community partners and state.”

ULI Stage, WEB

Spreading Prosperity: Innovation and Job Growth for Arizona’s Future

With the quality of panelists and speakers assembled for ULI Arizona District Council’s 9th annual Trends Day, the theme — “Spreading Prosperity” — was apropos.

Where else but at ULI’s Trends Day does an audience of almost 900 real estate and business leaders get to hear some of the industry’s top experts talk about spreading prosperity as it relates to innovation and job growth for Arizona’s future?

ULI Arizona District Council Chair Duke Reiter opened with remarks about this being a time of transformation. Trends Day Chair Tom Johnston said the day was all about best practices. Dr. Matthew Croucher, an economist with APS, offered his take Arizona’s economy – past present and future.

Lynn Thurber, ULI National Chairman and Patrick Phillips, ULI National CEO were both in attendance to discuss the connections between health and the built environment, and the opportunities to use real estate investments to help improve the health of people and create more thriving communities.

Panels included such Valley leaders as GPEC President Barry Broome, pro sports icon Jerry Colangelo, Valley Metro CEO Steve Banta, former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe, Super Bowl XLIX Host Committee CEO Jay Parry, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Chandler Economic Development Director Chris Mackay.

The keynote address, delivered by Alex Steffen, co-founder of Worldchanging, was an inspiring, yet provocative analysis of global trends – past, present and future.

Optimism ruled the day; a welcome change from years past.

By Peter Madrid, Cushman & Wakefield of Arizona, Inc.