I don’t know how I missed this one.  San Tan Flat is a business establishment in Queen Creek, Arizona. It opened in 2005. The establishment serves food and beverages (including alcoholic beverages) and has live musical entertainment.  Some of the patrons dance when there is live musical entertainment.  These activities take place both inside the building and on the patio outside the building.  The reason I’m describing what happens there, and not labeling what type of establishment it is, will become apparent in a moment.

Pinal County has a zoning ordinance that says this:


Amusement or recreational enterprise (within a completely enclosed structure) including billiard or pool hall, bowling alley, dance hall, gymnasium, penny arcade, shooting gallery, skating rink, sports arena

Bar, cocktail lounge, night club, tavern

The same zone also permits these uses:

Personal Services

Recreational Facilities


Beverage Service

Without any more information, guess how San Tan Flat should be classified, according to Pinal County?  In other words, which of the listed uses best describes San Tan Flat?  Give up?

The County decided in 2006 that San Tan Flat is not a bar, not a nightclub, not a restaurant, but a “dance hall.” That meant, according to the zoning administrator, that since a “dance hall” is only allowed “within a completely enclosed structure,” that the patio at San Tan Flat was a zoning violation.

By the way, have you ever heard of a bowling alley that was not within a completely enclosed structure?  I haven’t either.

After the County issued a citation for operating an outdoor “dance hall,” a hearing officer then proceeded to impose a fine of $5,000 for the violation, plus $5,000 per day until use of the patio was discontinued.

 Now you may be thinking, well, what about the neighbors?  Shouldn’t they be able to live in peace without loud music blaring every night from this honky tonk?  If you are thinking that, you have never driven on Hunt Highway (the road on which San Tan Flat is located) through Queen Creek, Arizona.  Queen Creek might be close enough to Phoenix to be considered a suburb, but it isn’t exactly suburban.  It’s still out in the country.  San Tan Flat is about a quarter mile from the nearest complaining resident, according to the news accounts.  I’m surprised there is anything that close from what I know of the location.

The story has a happy ending.  Judge O’Neil of the Pinal County Superior Court concluded, in a decision issued July 21, 2008 (a mere 22 months after Pinal County’s citation):

San Tan Flat does not violate Pinal County Zoning Ordinance section 1601(b) because dancing is not San Tan Flat’s primary enterprise. Defendants’ interpretation of section 1601(b) as prohibiting “dance hall activities” including live, amplified, outdoor music, a limited menu, the sale of alcoholic beverages, or the mere presence of dancing is erroneous and inconsistent with the statutory language.

Next time, if you want to prohibit amplified outdoor music, just say so.



So, did anyone take the wager at the end of my January Tax Law Special Report, about whether Congress will act on the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s conclusion that:


The largest source of compliance burdens for taxpayers – and the IRS – is the overwhelming complexity of the tax code. The only meaningful way to reduce those burdens is to simplify the tax code enormously.


If you took that wager, you lose.  You may have heard about a little piece of legislation passed by Congress last month called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.  You know, the one that was over 1000 pages and that, according to the news accounts, our representatives did not read before they voted on it?


According to the CCH Tax Briefing published on February 15, that Act makes over 300 changes to the Internal Revenue Code.  Some of the tax changes contained in the Act are new measures, some are extensions or modifications of existing provisions, and some are temporary measures.  Regardless of whether or not those changes will be beneficial from an economic standpoint, they will make the Code, and therefore your tax return, even more complicated.  I think 2009 will be the year that I finally buy tax preparation software to do my return.