AZ Republic – Silver lining of housing slump; Tax may decline

Glen Creno
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 29, 2007 12:00 AM
 Valley homeowners upset about the fast rise in their property-tax assessments may feel some relief this year as the latest valuation notices hit their mailboxes.

The Maricopa County Assessor’s Office says the new round of valuations to be mailed around Feb. 1 will reflect the slump in the housing market. The office, however, would not disclose specifics and emphasized that not all property owners will see a decline in assessed value. Some neighborhoods have held values better through the downturn.

“In some parts of the Valley, values will be flat or maybe increase a little bit,” said Paul Petersen, an assessor’s spokesman. “It depends on where you are located.”  The valuations are important because they are used to calculate the taxes that support such things as cities, school districts, community colleges and other taxing districts.

Consumers hoping for an immediate property-tax reduction will likely be disappointed. Though the valuations come out in February, the payments are billed in 2009.

The lag time is built into the system so property owners can appeal the valuations. Petersen said appeals have increased 25 to 30 percent during the housing boom. The combined median prices of new and existing homes increased 55 percent in the Valley from 2004 through 2006, according to Arizona State University’s Realty Studies program.

But the market turned locally and nationally, and home prices fell in more than half of the Valley’s ZIP codes in the first eight months of this year, according to The Republic’s latest Valley Home Values study.

The valuations being mailed in February will reflect sales data from the third quarter of 2006 to the same quarter of this year. Of course, the market may change a great deal by the time taxpayers write a check for those assessments next year.

“We’re always playing catch-up,” Petersen said.

Many Valley homeowners, though, are keenly aware of neighborhood price moves, and they balk when they pay taxes based on a market snapshot that’s a year old. There was so much aggravation about how values were set during the boom that three initiatives were filed this year with the goal of controlling property taxes. A November poll of county residents indicated that 31 percent think home values are a little too high and 24 percent call prices much too high, according to WestGroup Research of Phoenix.

The valuation notices provide two figures: the full cash value of a house and its limited-property value. The assessor says the full cash value is the current market value of the land and house. It is used to figure secondary taxes for such things as bonds, budget overrides and special districts.

The limited value is the basis for calculating primary taxes that are used to run government and schools. It is based on a formula set by law and can’t exceed the full cash value.

The full cash value does not necessarily represent how much the property is worth or could be sold for. That is set by the marketplace.

Kevin McCarthy, president of the Arizona Tax Research Association, said his group advocates that state and local governments reduce tax rates rather than pushing for initiatives it believes would damage public financing. But he said new, reduced valuations in Maricopa County will not reduce angst over the higher tax bills of the past two years.

“Even if there are small reductions, I don’t think it will do a lot to alleviate people’s fears that taxes will continue to increase,” he said.

Framing subcontractor Bob Larson successfully appealed a valuation notice for land he bought in Desert Mountain in north Scottsdale. He bought the land for $105,000 in 2003 but said his first tax bill showed a value of $288,000.

He filed the affidavit of value from the sale with the assessor, and the value on the land was reduced to the sale price. He’s not sure what happened but assumed it was a technicality: A pricey golf membership attached to the land was removed before he bought it.

“It wasn’t any huge financial hardship, but it’s very unfortunate when you buy a property after that appeal time has expired,” he said.

AZ Republic – CityNorth lines up new tenants

Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 26, 2007 04:50 PM
Eight retail tenants and several restaurants have have committed to CityNorth, the large mixed-use development at 56th Street and Loop 101 in northeast Phoenix.

Related Urban Development, one of the team of companies involved in the 144-acre project, said the development is on track for an October 2008 opening.

The tenants will be open for business next fall. The stores are:   • White House Black Market, Chico’s and Lindsay Lou, which features women’s clothing.

• Gymboree and Pumpkin Patch, both children’s clothing stores.

• Verde Maison, cosmetics.

• Optix, eyeglasses.

• Rockport, shoes.

New dining places announced:

• Dos Caminos – Mexican.

• Bacia Il Caffe – coffee and wine bar.

• Nordstrom Café – American.

Earlier this year, Related announced that the following restaurants are coming to CityNorth: Mitchell’s Ocean Club – seafood and steaks; Il Fornaio – Italian; Daily Grill – American; Blue Martini – martinis and tapas; Kona Grill – American/Asian.

Nordstrom will be coming during Phase 2 of the development.

“Phase One construction includes High Street retail, restaurants, offices and the Residences on High Street,” said Najla Kayyem, vice president for marketing and public relations for Related. “The first residents and office tenants will also move in during fall 2008.”

High Street is made up of nine three- and four-story buildings, and it runs parallel to Deer Valley Drive, east of the Desert Ridge Marketplace.

Scottsdale Luxury Condo For Sale

Arroyo Madera Town Home For Sale

9070 E Gary Road #140 Listed for $349,500k

Scottsdale AZ

1161 sqft, 2 Bedrooms/2 Baths


Well maintained single level townhome in the heart of Scottsdale with spacious two-car garage. Private end unit with courtyard entry.  Large patio w/ low maintenance.  Large split bedrooms, both with full baths and walk-in closets. Energy efficient gas fireplace, heater, and water heater. Granite countertops and tile flooring. Resort like landscaping throughout the community including: water features and large common areas. Close to Loop 101, bike paths, recreation, shopping, restaurants. Very clean with new carpet and new paint in 2007


Call The Holm Group at 480-767-2738 to set up a showing and/or to request some additional information.


AZ Republic – Music museum coming to Desert Ridge area

Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 20, 2007 02:47 PM

The new Musical Instrument Museum will be the first cultural amenity in the Desert Ridge area, if you set aside movie theaters and live music in the Desert Ridge Marketplace. “This is the sort of amenity any community would be glad to have,” said Bill DeWalt, president of the museum.

“As a part of the continued growth and development of Desert Ridge, we are pleased to welcome The Musical Instrument Museum to the community,” said Daniel Klutznick, part of the master developer team for Desert Ridge. “As the world’s first global musical instrument museum, MIM will join other world-renowned destinations that are a part of the Desert Ridge master-planned community, including Mayo Clinic Hospital and JW Marriott Resort and Spa.”  

Klutznick added the museum will “enhance the quality of life for visitors and residents as the museum celebrates the diversity of musical instruments.”The museum just purchased about 20 acres at the corner of Mayo and Tatum Boulevards in Phoenix.

DeWalt said the museum could have a February groundbreaking and an opening in two years.

“For a museum, this is extraordinarily aggressive,” he said. “We are still very much on track.”

Besides raising the $100 million needed to buy the land and build the museum, DeWalt and a small staff have been spending time hiring curators, designing the building, finding items to exhibit and designing the exhibits themselves.

Acquiring the instruments and designing the exhibits is “a major, major undertaking,” he said.

The exhibits, consisting of rare and unusual musical instruments from around the world, will fill 75,000 square feet of space. The instruments will be supplemented with audio and video clips showing them in use.

A video on the museum’s website,, shows the variety of instruments that could be in the collection.

The instruments will be purchased, borrowed and donated, DeWalt said. Partnerships are being established with other museums around the world, and a master list of desired pieces has been developed.

DeWalt, whose background is in cultural anthropology, said the museum “will give us a window into cultures around the world.”

He previously has said he expects performances using some of the rare instruments, as well as traveling collections.

Preliminary site plans already have won city approval, he said, and architectural designs and renderings should be ready soon.


AZ Republic – 2 NE land parcels set for auction

Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 24, 2007 10:19 AM

The Arizona State Land Department has two auctions upcoming in early 2008 affecting the Northeast Valley. The latest to be announced is an irregularly shaped parcel in the Desert Ridge area, northeast of the Loop 101 and Tatum Boulevard.

The other is the shopping center site in Paradise Ridge, southwest of Thompson Peak Parkway and Scottsdale Road.
A previous attempt to sell that site was held up for legal review.
The Desert Ridge auction will take place on Feb. 28. The Paradise Ridge auction is scheduled for Jan. 23.

Desert Ridge and Paradise Ridge are both master planned developments on state land.

Desert Ridge runs between 32nd Street and 64th Streets on the north side of the Central Arizona Project canal. Its northern limit is Pinnacle Peak Road.

Paradise Ridge sits between Desert Ridge and the Scottsdale border, north of Loop 101.

Development: beginning of end

 The upcoming auction of 205.6 acres in Desert Ridge spells the beginning of the end. Assuming a buyer comes forward at the Land Department auction, the parcel to be sold is one of the last large pieces of land available in the master planned community.

The parcel wraps around the north and east sides of the golf course at the J.W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, north of Deer Valley Drive. Most of the acreage is on the east side of the golf course, along 56th Street, and it wraps around the north side, along Pinnacle Peak Road.

Price for the parcel is $42.6 million, more than $200,000 an acre.

The auction date is Feb. 28.

The price is relatively low for Desert Ridge. The most recent sale of a large parcel there brought in more than $550,000 per acre in April, and a smaller parcel sold for more than $1 million an acre in May.

The parcel is one of the last residential areas available in the area. One more large parcel, about 265 acres at the southeast corner of 56th Street and Pinnacle Peak Road, remains unsold.

Other areas of Desert Ridge south of Loop 101 remain available for sale.

The other parcel coming up for auction is the 112-acre shopping center site in Paradise Ridge, which was held up for legal review of the sale details.

Auction delayed since October

 It originally was scheduled for sale in October, but questions about infrastructure requirements and one potential bidder’s preferred right caused a delay. The Land Department updated the infrastructure issue, but left the preferred right in place. That right is held by Westcor, the shopping center developer, in exchange for its services in getting the land ready to sell.

Westcor already has distributed plans for the site, where it will build a mixed use project called Palisene.

The land is on a 99-year lease, with an appraisal of $32 million and expected costs of $67 million for infrastructure improvements, plus annual rent payments.

Westcor, the Thomas J. Klutznick Co. and DMB Associates have expressed interest in the land.

Klutznick currently is developing CityNorth, not far from the Paradise Ridge site.

DMB developed DC Ranch, about two miles away to the east.  


AZ Republic – Magazine honors 2 We-Ko-Pa courses

The Republic |
Dec. 14, 2007 01:46 PM

FOUNTAIN HILLS – Both of We-Ko-Pa Golf Club’s courses were recently honored by Golfweek magazine’s 2007 “Top 100 Best Resort Golf Courses” issue.

We-Ko-Pa’s 1-year-old, Bill Coore- and Ben Crenshaw-designed Saguaro course was ranked 20th in the U.S., and the 6-year-old, Scott Miller-designed Cholla course was ranked 31st in the annual publication.

Both Saguaro and Cholla were ranked highest among all Arizona golf courses on the list. Four other Arizona courses also made the “Top 100 Best Resort Golf Courses” list, including:

• No. 38: Ventana Canyon Golf Club (Mountain), Tucson.

• No. 74: Wigwam Resort (Gold), Litchfield Park.

• No. 84: Boulders Golf Club (South), Carefree

• No. 85: Ventana Canyon Golf Club (Canyon), Tucson.

“We are honored to have We-Ko-Pa listed among the best golf courses in the United States. Our new course (Saguaro) has proven to be a great addition,” said Jeff Lessig, director of golf and general manager at We-Ko-Pa.

We-Ko-Pa is owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and is operated by EF Golf and OB Sports Golf Management.

For information on We-Ko-Pa, call 480-836-9000 or visit


AZ Republic – Plans for 1000 homes east of Fountain Hills questioned

Beth Duckett
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 14, 2007 07:22 AM

A developer’s plans to build 1,000 homes east of Fountain Hills in unincorporated Maricopa County have raised concerns with the Salt River Project, neighbors and the nearby Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. Developer Ellman Cos. wants to break ground by 2010 on The Preserve at Goldfield Ranch, a planned community northeast of Scottsdale. Nearly 90 homes exist in the 5,000-acre Goldfield Ranch, which straddles Arizona 87.

Ellman hopes to advance the project when it seeks approval Wednesday on a master plan amendment with the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Ellman says the plans are an improvement over former drawings that called for more than 2,000 homes on the land surrounded by the Tonto National Forest.The amendment trims the number of homes and removes a golf course, recreation facility and commercial space.

Still, SRP worries plans to drill wells for The Preserve could impact the underground sub-flow of the nearby Verde River. Some local land owners fear the wells might draw from their own water table. Fort McDowell, which provides fire protection to Goldfield Ranch, has refused to serve The Preserve.

Nightlife here about stars above

People don’t move to Goldfield Ranch for the restaurants or nightlife. They move there to get away.

Horse stables and all-terrain vehicles are not uncommon in the scattered desert community of 85-plus homes northeast of Scottsdale in unincorporated Maricopa County.

It’s no wonder the secluded land, which straddles Arizona 87, caught the eye of developer and former Phoenix Coyotes co-owner Steve Ellman.

Ellman Cos. wants to break ground on a 1,000-home development – called The Preserve at Goldfield Ranch – in early 2010.

But the plans have raised concerns from the Salt River Project, whose qualms about pumping groundwater in the area have the attention of neighbors and the nearby Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

Local resident Steve Feyrer-Melk said he thinks The Preserve could destroy Goldfield’s western equestrian lifestyle.

“When you start to bring in high density, there is no way to avoid disrupting an area like this,” said Feyrer-Melk, who lives on a horse ranch.

Plans have chance since 1995

Ellman said its plans are an improvement over a 1995 developmental master plan that proposed more than double the number of residential units and other extras. The company is seeking final approval on a master plan amendment Wednesday from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. That proposal would trim the number of homes to 1,000 and remove a proposed golf course and commercial space, among other things.

“We thought a ‘less is more’ mentality might be better,” said Don Kile, who is managing the development for Ellman.

Kile said the project might one day include a boutique resort and equestrian units, but likely no hard commercial, on the 2,200-acre swath bordered by the Tonto National Forest.

“This is responsible development,” said Kile. “It’s quite refreshing to be able to stand up and have a plan that reduces the impact on the environment . . . and still be a viable economic development.”

Ellman, who bought the land last year for $133 million, also is developing nearly two square miles of former state trust land in Fountain Hills.

Water comes from underground

Water for The Preserve could come from wells that tap the lower part of a two-layer aquifer, said county planner John Verdugo. Current Goldfield residents draw on the top portion. SRP says the two layers might actually fuse, which has left some residents worried about their own water supply.

“Local land owners are concerned the groundwater pumping could lower their water table,” said Greg Kornrumph, a principal analyst for SRP’s water rights and contracts division.

SRP claims drilling wells in Goldfield could impact the underground sub-flow of the nearby Verde River, which is illegal without water rights.

“The wells . . . will be drilled in close proximity to the Verde River,” Kornrumph said. “We believe the sub-flow of the Verde River is actually part of (the river).”

Ellman working on concerns

Kile said Ellman is “working closely with (SRP) to determine whether or not the water master plan for The Preserve . . . would impact either surface water or sub-flow.” “We’ve been in contact with SRP for two years,” Kile said. “We’re respectful of their position and their interpretation.”

The Preserve would annually use 732 acre-feet of water, with 250 acre-feet recharged back into the aquifer. An acre-foot equals about 326,000 gallons, or enough water to supply a family of five for a year.

The Arizona Department of Water Resources said there is enough groundwater to supply The Preserve for 100 years. Ellman is working toward gaining a Certificate of Assured Water Supply from the department, Kile said.

Wastewater would mostly be processed through a planned on-site treatment plant governed by a domestic water improvement district. A small portion of residents would be on septic.

Kile said Ellman would build the plant and essentially “donate” it to the district, which reports to the county.Fire protection still in question The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation – which provides acting fire service to the Goldfield Ranch Fire District – said it is leaving The Preserve’s fire protection up to Ellman.“The Nation is not in any position to assume the liability,” said Carole Klopatek, Fort McDowell director of government relations.

The fire district covers the 5,000-acre Goldfield area, including The Preserve land.

Kile said Ellman will find another way to contract for fire services “later down the road.”

Kathy Haines, president of the Goldfield Concerned Citizens Association, said she thinks the county should not approve The Preserve without requiring Ellman to build a fire station.

“The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation agrees, and does not want to assume that burden,” said Haines, who helped to push the creation of Goldfield’s fire district with husband Randy.

To Haines, The Preserve is just another “cookie-cutter, gated community. There should be some place left to preserve the upper Sonoran Desert.”


AZ Republic – Grayhawk selected again

Dave Vest
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 12, 2007 10:51 PM
 Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale will host its second PGA Tour Fall Series event in 2008, a PGA Tour source confirmed Wednesday.

The 2008 Open will be staged on Grayhawk’s Raptor Course the week of Oct. 20-26. Grayhawk hosted this year’s Fry’s Electronics Open in mid-October, a week earlier than the 2008 event will be played.

Fry’s was the title sponsor of two PGA Tour events in 2007: The Open in Las Vegas and the Fry’s Electronics Open at Grayhawk. Fry’s has decided to sponsor only one event in 2008. It will be called the Open, but it will move from Las Vegas to Grayhawk. Thus, the Fry’s Electronics Open has been eliminated after one year.
Grayhawk’s involvement with the PGA Tour’s Fall Series was supposed to have been as a one-time host for the Fry’s Electronics Open in 2007 while construction continued on the tournament’s permanent home, the Institute Golf Course in Morgan Hill, Calif. But chronic delays in the completion of that course have resulted with Grayhawk pinch-hitting again in 2008.

Mike Weir won the 2007 Fry’s Electronics Open. About 28,000 spectators attended for the four rounds.

PGA Tour fan-favorite Phil Mickelson played in the event as a favor to Grayhawk, a course he helped create and on which he played many times as a young golfer. He missed the cut, but before leaving the course that Friday, Mickelson vowed to return to Grayhawk if the PGA Tour returned.

Associated Press – Trade group lifts outlook for 2008 home sales

The Associated Press
Dec. 10, 2007 09:03 AM
 WASHINGTON (AP) – Bucking conventional wisdom, a trade group for real estate agents on Monday said the battered housing market is on the verge of stabilizing and inched-up its outlook for 2007 and 2008 home sales.

The revised monthly forecast from the National Association of Realtors, which followed nine straight months of downward revisions, calls for U.S. existing home sales to fall 12.5 percent this year to 5.67 million – the lowest level since 2002. Last month, the association predicted 5.66 million existing homes would be sold this year.

The Realtors’ group also forecast sales will rise slightly in 2008 to 5.7 million, up from last month’s prediction of 5.69 million.
Numerous other economists, however, are far less optimistic than the trade group. They predict weak sales and falling prices through next year and beyond and emphasize that those problems could worsen if the economy sinks into a recession.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, predicted at a housing forum last week that, if the economy slips into recession or if efforts to prevent foreclosures don’t pick up substantially, the housing market downturn could last through the end of the decade.

The trade group’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, cited job growth and the replacement of subprime lenders to borrowers with weak credit with government-backed loans as reasons for the improved outlook.

“Despite over-exaggerated negative coverage on the housing conditions, many local markets are actually seeing price increases,” Yun said at a press briefing. “Mortgage availability is improving”

The trade group also said its index that forecasts near-term home sales inched upward in October. The trade group’s seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes rose 0.6 percent to 87.2 from an upwardly revised September index of 86.7, but was down 18.4 percent from a year ago – the third-largest year-over year decline on record.

The Realtors group also said the median price for U.S. existing homes – the point at which half sold for more and half for less – will sink by 1.9 percent to $217,600 this year and rise 0.3 percent next year to $218,300.

If median prices fall this year, it will be the first price decline in the nearly 40 years that the trade group has tracked that data.

Other ways to measure national housing prices, such as the S&P/Case-Shiller index, have already shown price declines.

A government index of national home prices in the fourth quarter marked a quarterly decline for the first time in 13 years in the third quarter.

Home prices dipped 0.4 percent nationwide in the July-September period, compared with the previous quarter, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said last month, citing weakening prices in much of the country.

Compared with the third quarter of 2006, U.S home prices posted an increase of 1.8 percent, but it was the smallest year-over-year increase since 1995, according to the agency, which oversees the big mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Associated Press – Fed cuts key interest rate for third time in 3 months

The Associated Press
Dec. 11, 2007 08:08 AM


WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point Tuesday, trying to keep the country out of recession.

The reduction in the federal funds rate to 4.25 percent marked the third rate cut in the past three months. Fed officials signaled that further cuts were possible if a severe downturn in housing and a crisis in mortgage lending get worse.

Commercial banks were expected to quickly match the latest reduction by trimming their prime lending rate, which would reduce this benchmark rate for millions of consumer and business loans to 7.25 percent.