Property Owner Entitled to Rely on Zoning Administrator Advice

By:  Kevin J. Parker

In the recent case of In Re Langlois/Novicki Variance Denial, 175 A.3d 1222, 2017 VT 76 (2017), the Vermont court addressed the question of whether a property owner could enforce – by equitable estoppel principles – a representation by a town zoning administrator that no permit or variance was needed for the property owner’s proposed construction.  In that case, a landowner wanted to add a pergola to an existing concrete patio on his land.  During a social visit at the property, the property owner asked the town zoning administrator if he needed a permit.  The town zoning administrator told the property owner that no permit was needed. … Read More »

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Is the Issuance of a City Use Permit Referable? Not When It Is an Administrative Act

By: Adam E. Lang

Arizona’s Constitution gives electors in cities, towns, and counties the ability to refer legislation that was enacted by their local elected officials to the ballot for popular vote. Ariz. Const. art. IV, Pt. 1 § 1(8). But only legislative acts are referable; administrative acts are not. In general, a legislative act makes new law and creates policy, is permanent in nature, and is generally applied. On the other hand, an administrative act is one that executes and implements a law already in place. Wennerstrom v. City of Mesa, 169 Ariz. 485, 489-90, 821 P.2d 146, 150-51 (1991).… Read More »

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Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies Area Variance Standard; Property Owners May Obtain an Area Variance When Special Circumstances Existed at Purchase

By:  Nick Wood, Adam Lang, Noel Griemsmann, and Brianna Long

In Pawn 1st v. City of Phoenix, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected a Court of Appeals rule that would have unduly restrained alienation of property in Arizona. The Court of Appeals found that the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment acted beyond its authority when it granted an area variance to a pawn shop where the special circumstances causing a need for the variance existed before the pawn shop purchased the property. Under Arizona law, boards of adjustment cannot grant an area variance where the special circumstances requiring the variance are self-imposed.… Read More »

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Property Taxes: A Shopping Center May Not Always be a Shopping Center

By:  Rick Herold, Craig McPike & Ben Reeves

In the world of real property taxes, Valuation + Classification = Assessed Valuation.  Sounds simple, right?  The County Assessor determines the first factor, valuation (subject to certain guidelines under applicable Arizona law).  The Arizona State Legislature determines the second factor, the property’s legal classification and corresponding assessment ratio (i.e., tax rate).  Given the wide disparity in assessment ratios, classification can be a major issue for taxpayers.

Recently, the Court of Appeals confirmed that a shopping center for valuation purposes may not be a shopping center for classification purposes.  Scottsdale/101 Associates LLC v.Read More »

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Are Short-Term Vacation Rentals Legal?

By: Ben Reeves

The recent explosion in popularity of short-term vacation rentals through services such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com not only provides terrifying horror stories about problem renters (google it if you’re interested), but also raises serious questions about the legality of the practice.

Many cities are currently struggling with this very issue. Opponents to short-term rentals argue that transient renters disrupt otherwise peaceful neighborhoods and negatively impact local business like traditional hotels. Proponents of the practice contend that they have a constitutionally protected property right to use their private property without governmental interference. In Jerome, Arizona, the City recently grappled with this very issue, and ultimately decided to inform a few of its citizens that they could no longer rent their homes on a short-term basis—much to the chagrin of the affected property owners.… Read More »

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Understanding zoning nonconforming uses is no walk in the park, but a mobile-home park may be treated as a unified use.

By:  Erica Stutman

When Arizona municipalities adopt new zoning ordinances and regulations, existing property owners have the right to continue using their property for the use in place when the new ordinance or regulation becomes effective, including the right to make reasonable repairs and alterations.  See A.R.S. § 9-462.02(A).   This right to continue the “legal nonconforming use,” which is premised on due process concerns, may be lost if the owner makes major changes to the property after the new zoning law takes effect.  When property is divided into smaller units, questions may arise as to what constitutes the prior use and what changes destroy the protected status. … Read More »

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