Wilson Gee

Wilson Gee may be forced to pay up to $1.6 million in tax benefits to the county for closing the Ahwatukee Lakes Golf Course according to an Arizona statute that has never been used before, the Maricopa County Assessor’s Office said.

The statute, 42-13154 was created in 1985 to help golf courses be more profitable. It gives golf course owners a tax benefit, $500 per acre, as long as they operate as a golf course. If owners decide to close a course, the statute says they must pay back 10 years of that tax benefit plus interest and a penalty.

David Boisvert, chief appraiser for Maricopa County, says his office has calculated that to be about $1.6 million.

The law has never come up in the past because golf courses don’t typically close and become vacant land, Boisvert said.

“Most of them foreclose and it gets picked up by another golfing entity that takes over the property,” he said.

In this case, the course closed operations, and because it is a high-profile case, the county assessor got word of the closing, confirmed it was closed, and was forced to reclassify the land as vacant land. When the assessor’s office reclassified the land, the statute takes effect.

Gee will receive the bill in September of 2015. He could take the issue to court but Robert Pizorno, communications director for the county assessor, said the assessor’s position is that this is a case they would win.

For more information on the statute and what it means for the Lakes, look for a story in the Ahwatukee Foothills News on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

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