Land Use & Zoning

Representing public and private sector clients in all manner of land use and development-related ventures and issues, we advise on projects ranging from drafting statewide planning and land use legislation to managing the state’s largest master-planned communities through the increasingly complex process of land use approvals and entitlements.


Whether the project is commercial, residential, retail, office, shopping center, or master-planned community, the entitlements process for major projects is complex. We provide full-service support from inception to completion. Beginning with pre-annexation negotiations and moving through design and site review, land use plan amendments, final zoning approval, and infrastructure agreements, we also help clients secure building permits and advance through inspections toward the successful completion of the project.

Maintaining strong working relationships with city council members, county supervisors, planning commissioners and staff, neighborhood leaders, and other key players throughout Arizona’s counties, cities, and towns, we help clients successfully obtain zoning approvals, use permits, general plan, and comprehensive plan amendments, variances, and subdivision and development approvals. When necessary, we challenge the denial or conditioning of these requests in court and before administrative bodies.

In addition to our representation during negotiations, preparation, and presentation of master plans, specific plans, general plan amendments, re-zonings, site plans, subdivision regulations, special use permits, variances, and zoning interpretations, we also handle matters related to:

  • Infrastructure agreements and financing
  • Vesting of development rights with development agreements, leases, and land exchanges
  • Analysis of development water rights
  • Coordination of environmental and archaeological assessments
  • Advocacy in administrative and judicial proceedings to invalidate land use exactions, compel issuance of permits, and overturn unfavorable land use decisions
  • Drafting state and local planning legislation and ordinances
  • Assisting with the negotiation and formation of community facilities districts 


In some cases, a property may not need to be rezoned, but the developer or landowner is still required to apply for a use permit to move forward with a project. The conditional use permit process can be similar to the legislative process for a change to rezoning, or it can be a quasi-judicial hearing process that does not involve a planning commission or city/town council. The way in which a property is zoned may not be affected by a conditional land use permit. Also, a conditional use permit is generally not permanent and is usually granted for a specific time frame.

Navigating the land use permit process and obtaining variances when necessary is where we add value to our clients. Our decades of experience enable us to assist clients statewide in securing land use permits required to efficiently complete their projects.


In cases where variances from the terms of a zoning ordinance are required, we help clients navigate the process. The special conditions requiring a variance most often involve the land or structure’s shape, topography, size, height, location, or surroundings.

From initial meetings with city planners to completing applications and gaining the support of the community, area residents, and officials, we work closely with clients to successfully process their variance cases.


Land use development agreements play an important role for developers, property owners, banks, capital groups, and municipalities. Critical to obtaining funding for development projects, a sound development agreement specifies the standards and conditions that will govern development of a property – protecting both the developer as well as the municipality – and outlines the benefits that the municipality is willing to offer to developers in exchange for completing certain projects within its jurisdiction.

For example, when cities and towns want to incentivize the development of large-scale projects, they often provide tax reimbursements in return for the creation of city infrastructure and routinely agree to maintain existing zoning entitlements. Often in Arizona, cities and counties compete to attract large employers and plants, resulting in cost-saving opportunities for developers.

We help simplify the complex, multi-party process for developers entering into development agreements. From resolving multifaceted zoning and land use issues to presenting cases at public hearings and negotiating agreements with municipalities across Arizona, we have the experience and reputation to efficiently complete development projects of all types and sizes for our clients.

Our work in this area includes representing private developers in structuring and utilizing existing incentive opportunities for office and mixed-use projects, including the Collier Center and the Camelback Esplanade in Phoenix. We have also negotiated several high-profile economic incentive agreements, including agreements for the Scottsdale Waterfront and IKEA.


We protect the interests and resources of our property owner clients by working to resolve land use and zoning disputes before litigation. Our goal matches our clients’ need to move their projects forward efficiently and successfully. 

When litigation is necessary, we aggressively pursue all available claims or defenses in state and federal courts, while simultaneously preparing for an acceptable negotiated resolution. Our representation includes:

  • Demands by cities and counties for unreasonable exactions, fees, or conditions in return for zoning, subdivision plat, and site plan approvals.
  • Denials of subdivision plat, site plan, zoning, or other approvals.
  • Appeals to and from city and county boards of adjustment involving variances and zoning interpretation requests.
  • Opposition to referendum petitions challenging land use decisions.
  • Claims for inverse condemnation, regulatory takings, and violation of due process or other constitutional rights.
  • Defense of zoning violations and code enforcement cases.
  • Protection of private property rights from arbitrary government actions.

Representative experience:

  • Grand Canyon Skywalk Development LLC v. ‘SA’ NYU WA Inc., 715 F.2d 1196 (9th Cir.2013)
  • Northwest Fire District v. U.S. Home of Arizona Constr. Co., 215 Ariz. 492, 161 P.3d 535 (2007)
  • Committee for Preservation of Established Neighborhoods v. Riffel, 213 Ariz. 247, 141 P.3d 422 (App.2006)
  • Redelsperger v. City of Avondale, 207 Ariz. 430, 87 P.3d 843 (App. 2004)
  • Korte v. Bayless, 199 Ariz. 173, 16 P.3d 200 (2001)


Before the development process begins, we help clients assess the risks and benefits of their potential projects and identify the impact of any potential conditions imposed upon the property. We focus on uncovering the barriers and benefits of developing or re-developing a specific site to ensure our clients are equipped with the essential information needed before determining whether to move forward with a project.

We work with investors, lenders, buyers, and sellers throughout Arizona to identify the zoning classification of a property and advise on the likelihood of obtaining higher zoning entitlements. When rezoning is necessary, we facilitate the rezoning process and obtain approvals that will increase the value of the land and/or allow it to be used for a new purpose.

Representative experience in zoning analysis and rezoning includes:

  • Represented a commercial developer in amending local zoning regulations, rezoning of land, and negotiating infrastructure agreements.
  • Assisted a developer client in successfully rezoning a 1,000-acre active adult community.
  • Obtained zoning approval for a 2100-megawatt generating station in Maricopa County.
  • Represented an auto dealer in obtaining zoning approvals for dealerships throughout Phoenix.


Gallagher & Kennedy attorneys have handled some of Arizona’s most complex and high-profile urban projects, including the establishment of Bank One Ballpark (now Chase Field) in downtown Phoenix, home to the MLB team the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the efforts to finance and locate the stadium to be used by the NFL team the Arizona Cardinals.  

Additional successful projects for Valley businesses and developers include:

  • 44th Street Corridor and EV Hotel Downtown Phoenix
  • U.S. largest mobile home park owner/operator
  • Office/retail/hotel complex in downtown Phoenix
  • Largest nuclear power plant in the U.S.
  • Multi-family townhome project in the city of Chandler
  • Price Road Corridor in the city of Chandler
  • 1,000-acre master-planned development in the city of Surprise
  • 115-bed recovery center in the city of Mesa
  • Chandler Airport Industrial Projects
  • Big box retailer’s location on I-10 Freeway in the city of Tolleson
  • Main Street, in downtown Mesa
  • Wedding venues in the unincorporated city of Apache Junction and in the town of Gilbert
  • Sand and rock sales business in the unincorporated Maricopa County town of Queen Creek