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Applicant Information - Frequently Asked Questions

A building must have special historical significance to Scottsdale, Arizona or the United States to be considered for the local register. It must satisfy one or more of the criteria in the city’s Historic Property ordinance Section 6.113links to external site. A building is eligible for the Scottsdale Historic Register if:

  • The building is associated with a significant historical event, OR
  • The building is associated with significant people in our past, OR
  • The building is the work of a master, possesses high artistic value or contains a special type of construction, OR
  • The property yields, or is likely to yield, important information in prehistory (usually applies to archaeological sites), AND
  • The building retains its integrity and has the physical features to convey its historical significance.

Designation as a historic property has no effect on the use of a building. A property owner is free to sell, lease, transfer interests and/or use the building without needing approvals or involvement with the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Office.

Being listed on the Scottsdale Historic Register does not require that the owner perform any special inspections, repairs or improvements to the property.

For designated historic properties, physical alterations made to the exterior of a building must be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission prior to the issuance of a building permit. Currently, the city staff or its Development Review Board must approve all development and changes made to existing buildings within "The Downtown Area". Historic designation does not add a new requirement, it simply changes who conducts the review.

A property owner can appeal the Historic Preservation Commission decision by requesting a hearing before the City Council.

An Historic Preservation Plan is required for all properties listed on the Scottsdale Historic Register. The Historic Preservation Plan will be prepared by the property owner. City staff and the owner will work together to create a plan that will assist public and private efforts in order to preserve the property. As part of each plan, standards and design guidelines will be identified for the preservation and maintenance of the historic character of the property. These standards and guidelines provide information to the property owner (in advance of planning changes to the building exterior) and will be used by the Historic Preservation Commission in making decisions for approval of applications for “Certificates of Appropriateness".

The Historic Preservation Program has developed an incentive program to assist the homeowners in historic district neighborhoods with protecting and maintaining the exterior features of their homes that give their neighborhood a distinct character. City Council has budgeted funds specifically to assist homeowners in historic districts. Please refer to the City of Scottsdale web site and search for the Historic Residential Exterior Rehabilitation (HRER) Program information.

More information:

A local resource can be nominated for historic preservation zoning overlay and listing on the register by the property owner, the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning Commission or the City Council.

There are actually six different types or categories of historic resources in Scottsdale listed in the local ordinance Section 6.113links to external site. The types and examples of each include:

  • Buildings: stores and houses
  • Sites: petroglyphs on rocks or other archaeological resources
  • Structures: canals or bridges
  • Objects: sculptures, airplanes, or trees
  • Districts: collections of related properties such as a residential neighborhood or commercial area
  • Landmarks: a district, site, building, structure or object that meets all the criteria for designation as an historic resource and placement on the Scottsdale Historic Register, and in addition must possess exceptional significance in United States, Arizona or Scottsdale history, archaeology, architecture, engineering, or culture, as determined by the City Council.

The Historic Preservation Commission researches Scottsdale subdivisions to determine which neighborhoods have maintained their historic character and are the best examples of their type. The Commission uses this research to identify the neighborhoods that are the most significant neighborhood districts and eligible to be added to the local register. Additionally, a majority of the property owners (75%) in a proposed residential district may petition to have their neighborhood considered for the Scottsdale Historic Register. Once eligibility has been determined, local homeowner support is a very important part of the nomination process for designating a neighborhood district.

A request by the owner to demolish a building that has HP Historic Property zoning overlay will be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission. A “Stay of Demolition” could be approved which would delay the issuance of a demolition permit while a suitable and economical use is pursued. The owner may appeal a stay by the Historic Preservation Commission to City Council. A stay of demolition will be in effect for one year. After the stay has expired, the owner can receive a demolition permit and proceed with the demolition.

City Council appointed the Historic Preservation Commission in 1997 to develop and oversee the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Program. The Commission works with the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Officer and the City Archaeologist to manage the program. The city partners with the Scottsdale Historical Society and other private organizations or citizens groups on some historic preservation activities.

The process is similar to the public hearing process for other zoning district map amendment cases in the city with some important variations. The Historic Preservation Officer must prepare a designation report on the historic significance of the resource and the Historic Preservation Commission must conduct a public hearing to determine whether the specific property is eligible for listing on the local register. The Planning Commission and City Council also conduct hearings on the zoning district map amendment. Please refer to the Steps to Historic Property Zoning Overlay District (PDF) on the zoning process to see the steps.

An Historic Preservation Plan must be prepared for each property on the Scottsdale Historic Register. Typically the plan is prepared by the owner of the property in consultation with the Scottsdale Historic Preservation Officer. The plan contains design guidelines that the Historic Preservation Commission will use to review any changes to the property that require a hearing by the Commission. The plan also contains incentives and other public actions that the city has agreed to pursue to assist the property owner with the preservation of the historic resource. Please refer to Zoning Ordinance Section 6.119links to external site.

Addition to the National Register of Historic Placeslinks to external site provides direct and indirect benefits to the property owner. The incentives for being on the National Register are divided into owner-occupied and commercial categories.

Owner-Occupied incentives: The National Register listing affords property owners fast-track consideration for tax breaks. Classification as a non-commercial historic residential property on the state level will reduce by one-half the taxable portion of the property versus an owner-occupied primary residence. This classification, however, requires compliance with a list of criteria that reflects the requirements for the National Register. Once classified as “non-commercial historic property,” the tax rate decreases from 10% to a 5% tax rate. This special rate will be in effect for 15 years and then the property owner must reapply for the tax reduction. This classification is available to anyone in a historic home, listing on the local or National Register streamlines the process. The property owner must complete and submit the State of Arizona Historic Property Tax Reclassification Applicationlinks to external site for Residential, Owner-Occupied Properties.

Commercial incentives: The National Register of Historic Places and state level incentives provide assistance to commercial property owners. The federal government provides tax incentives to commercial, historic properties. By being listed on the National Register, a property owner of a depreciable (income producing) building can apply for a 20% tax credit. If a property is not on the National Register, but was in use before 1936, then a 10% tax credit might apply. These two credits cannot be combined, but are not the only options for federal aid in historic preservation. Other tax benefits for granting an easement exist. This benefit is calculated by taking the fair market value of the property before the easement and comparing it to the fair market value of the property after the easement. If there is a positive impact on the value of the property the taxation rate does not increase. This benefit can be combined with the 20% tax credit, if other conditions are met. In addition to tax incentives, the Federal Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) exists as a source of funds to encourage non-federal spending and investment in historic preservation. The State Historic Preservation Office administers the disbursement of this fund, and a minimum of 10% of the fund is earmarked for certified local governments. It requires a 2/3 match from a non-federal source. Historical Application for Income Producing Properties links to external site