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Sonoran Peaks, LLC v. Maricopa County

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

January 13, 2015

SONORAN PEAKS, LLC, an Arizona Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
MARICOPA COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Arizona, Defendant/Appellee. WILDCAT RIDGE, LLC, an Arizona Limited Liability Company, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
MARICOPA COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Arizona, Defendant/Appellee

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. Nos. TX2011-000795, TX2011-000803. The Honorable Dean M. Fink, Judge.

Bar Urness, PLC, Scottsdale, By Roie M. Bar, Amy M. Urness, Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants.

Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Phoenix, By Peter Muthig, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.

Judge Randall M. Howe delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Patricia A. Orozco and Judge Maurice Portley joined.

OPINION

Page 1108

[236 Ariz. 400] Randall M. Howe, Judge:

[¶1] Sonoran Peaks, LLC and Wildcat Ridge, LLC (collectively " Taxpayers" ) appeal from the tax court's orders dismissing their real property tax appeals for the tax year 2012. Taxpayers argue that the tax court retained jurisdiction over their 2012 appeals for purposes of enforcing the parties' settlement agreements. Alternatively, Taxpayers argue that if the court did not have jurisdiction over the appeals, then it could not issue a ruling construing or interpreting the settlement agreements. For the following reasons, we affirm.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶2] In December 2011, Taxpayers filed complaints in tax court challenging the valuation of their real property for tax year 2012.[1] Although the Board of Tax Equalization determined that the property was agricultural in 2011, that determination did not carry forward to subsequent years. The complaints alleged that the Maricopa County Assessor (the " Assessor" ) should have valued Taxpayers' land as agricultural property, which receives favorable treatment under Arizona's real property tax scheme. See A.R.S. § 42-13101 (providing for favorable valuation of land used for agricultural purposes). Taxpayers later amended their complaints to add claims for tax year 2013.

[¶3] In December 2012, Maricopa County (the " County" ) presented Taxpayers with settlement agreements, which Taxpayers signed and returned to the County. Because the settlement agreements required approval by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (the " Board" ), the County termed them " conditional settlement recommendations." Under the terms of the settlement agreements, the County agreed to value the land as agricultural property for tax years 2012 and 2013, resulting in significant reductions to the full cash values of the property.

[¶4] The following month, the Board approved the parties' settlements. The County notified Taxpayers of the Board's approval and requested that Taxpayers prepare proposed forms of judgment. The County Attorney's letter to Taxpayers stated: " If all taxes have been paid as required by law, I will execute and return the approved judgment to you so that you may file it in the Superior Court." The County Attorney also communicated to Taxpayers' counsel that:

The Assessor advises me that the 2012 taxes were paid late on all of the parcels involved in both of the cases referenced above. If this is correct, the Court lost jurisdiction of the appeals for those years, and we will have to redo the settlement agreement to dismiss the 2012 appeals.

The record establishes that Taxpayers were delinquent in paying the first ...


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