The Foothills Overlay (F-O) zoning district recognizes and preserves the rural desert character in the low density lands. The overlay limits the perceived 'overbuilding' of properties in areas typically described as being rural and in doing so would limit to some degree what such properties could be used for. The district contains standards that define the area’s character with minimum visual impact. The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance (ESL) purpose of desert preservation and blending development to the desert, are supported by the F-O.

Specifically, these regulations are intended to:

  1. Conserve the character of the natural desert landscape.
  2. Minimize the impacts of development by controlling the location, intensity, pattern design, construction techniques, and materials of development and construction.
  3. Retain the visual character of the natural landscape to the greatest extent feasible by regulating building mass location, colors, and materials; grading location, design and treatment; and landscaping design and material.
  4. Maintain significant open spaces which provide view corridors and land use buffers, protect landmarks and prime wash habitats, and maintain the city’s unique desert setting.
  5. Protect environmentally sensitive lands, while also recognizing the reasonable expectations of property owners.
  6. Encourage innovative planning, design and construction techniques for development in environmentally sensitive areas.

Where is the Foothills Area / How was it identified?

The Foothills area covers approximately eight square miles, generally between Dixileta Road to the north, Jomax Road to the south, 56th Street to the west and 96th Street to the east.

A Character Area Plan for this area was approved by the City Council in July 1999. The Foothills area is distinguished from the surrounding area by several significant features:

  • An open, 'rural' character
  • The strong presence of the natural desert
  • Multiple property owners (approximately 1,115 in FO area) on one to five acre lots

The Desert Foothills plan was the culmination of over two years of neighborhood and public involvement and input and reflects traditions that in many instances began before the area was annexed by the city in the early 1980's.

Key Resources

Fences & Walls within the Foothills Overlay Area

In general, walls and fences should be used only where necessary to shield views of parking and other such functions, provide safety and security and contain equestrian facilities and activities. They should follow undulating alignments that reflect the form of the desert terrain. They should not intrude upon or enclose special natural features such as washes, boulder features and major native plant specimens. A Wall Permit is required.

General Guidelines

  • In general, walls shall be setback a minimum of 15 feet from a side or rear property line.
  • Walls are prohibited from disrupting the continuity of NAOS corridors and wildlife corridors or habitats located along major and minor watercourses.
  • Walls shall not enclose or disconnect contiguous NAOS or be permitted to cross washes of 50 cfs greater flow in a 100-year event.
  • Fences shall not block wildlife movement in and through NAOS and/or natural watercourses.

Site and Structure Development Design Standards

  • Materials used for exterior surfaces of all structures shall blend in color, hue, and tone with the surrounding natural desert setting to avoid high contrast.
  • Surface materials of walls, retaining walls or fences shall be similar to and compatible with those of the adjacent main buildings.
  • No paint colors shall be used within any landform that have a LRV greater than 35 percent.
  • Exterior paint and material colors shall not exceed a value of 6 and a chroma of 6 as indicated in the Munsell Book of Color.
  • Leave washes in place and in natural conditions where practical. When necessary, wash modifications to natural watercourses and all walls and fences crossing natural watercourses shall be designed in accordance with the standards and policies specified in Chapter 37 (Floodplain and Stormwater Regulation) of the Scottsdale Revised Code, and the Design Standards and Policies Manual.

Overlay Districts Associated with the Foothills Overlay Area

The Foothills Overlay regulations are applied to a property in conjunction with the Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL) Overlay district, aside from the underlying “base” zoning designation of a property. These two overlay districts work together to conserve the character of the natural desert.

The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Overlay (ESL) is a set of zoning regulations used to guide development throughout the 134 square miles of desert and mountain areas of Scottsdale. These areas are located north and east of the Central Arizona Project canal.

The intent and purpose of the ESL is to identify and protect environmentally sensitive lands in the city and to promote public health and safety by managing development on these lands. The ordinance requires that a percentage of each property be permanently preserved as natural areas open space (NAOS) and that specific environmental features, including vegetation, washes, mountain ridges and peaks, be protected from inappropriate development. Benefits include:

  • Open space between properties and along roadways
  • Maintaining wildlife corridors
  • Protecting native vegetation
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