Old Town Character Plan and Zoning Updates

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Project News:

The core updates associated with the Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan and affected sections of the city's Zoning Ordinance have received City Council approval as indicated below. It is anticipated that the concluding step to this process - minor updates to the Old Town Scottsdale Urban Design & Architectural Guidelines - will go before the Development Review Board for review and possible approval (planned for Summer of 2024) to align with the recently approved amendments by City Council.

Step 1: Downtown Infill Incentive District Repeal - APPROVED

Step 2: Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan (CAP) Phase 1 - APPROVED

Step 3: Old Town CAP Phase 2 & Planned Block Development Amendments - APPROVED

UP NEXT - Step 4: Old Town Urban Design & Architectural Design Guidelines Update 


On August 24th, 2021, City Council initiated:

  • A non-major General Plan amendment to update the Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan (Cases 5-GP-2021& 5-GP-2021#2)
  • A text amendment to the City’s Zoning Ordinance for the Downtown (D), Downtown Overlay (DO), and Planned Block Development (PBD) zoning districts – and other affected sections of the ordinance – as well as the Downtown Infill Incentive District (Cases 1-TA-2021 and 1-II-2010#3)

Scottsdale City Council adopted the existing Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan (OTSCAP) in 2018. It serves as the long-range plan that guides growth and development in downtown Scottsdale, and incorporates community goals, policies, and an implementation program specific to this area of the community.

Downtown development is regulated by the Downtown (D), Downtown Overlay (DO), and Planned Block Development (PBD) sections of the Scottsdale Zoning Ordinance, the Downtown Infill Incentive District, in conjunction with the Old Town Scottsdale Urban Design & Architectural Guidelines.

Process Status

Phase 1
Phase 2
Phase 3

Phase 1 – Update Preparation (Complete)

The initial stage of the update process includes the review of existing Old Town Scottsdale policy, regulatory, and design guidelines documents and obtaining additional direction from City Council to help inform the update process. Completion of this phase will inform Phase 2 – Public Outreach. 

Phase 2 – Public Outreach & Creation of Draft Updates (Complete)

During this phase, the project team will provide several opportunities for the public to engage in providing input on Old Town policy, regulatory and design guidelines per City Council direction. Public input received will be summarized, publicly posted, and will inform the creation of draft update amendments to the plan and downtown ordinances.

Open House Reports:

Per City Council direction, city staff has had ongoing discussions with the community to garner input related to the Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan and Downtown sections of the Zoning Ordinance. In Fall of 2021, staff  held live open house sessions concerning Downtown Development Types and Development Flexibility. Then again in Spring of 2022, staff hosted several more in-person open house sessions – this time concerning topics such as mixed-use development, building height, bonus provisions, and open space. Further, staff collected input virtually from October 2021 to October 2022 via a series of ongoing Self-Guided Virtual Open House events. The following public outreach reports include presentation materials, discussion questions, and summaries of the responses collected from all open house sessions conducted, both in-person and virtually.

Fall 2021 In-Person Open House Report

Spring 2022 In-Person Open House Report

2022 Self-Guided Virtual Open House Report

Phase 3 – Public Hearings/Possible Adoption (2023/2024)

City Council’s direction to reexamine and update the Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan and affected sections of the Zoning Ordinance that relate to Old Town, including the Downtown Infill Incentive District and Plan, is anticipated to be completed during the 2023/2024 fiscal year with smaller updates to affected policy or regulatory documents to allow greater transparency, public involvement, and ease of review to all considered amendments. Depending on the plan and ordinance updates adopted by Council, modifications may need to be made to the Old Town Urban Design + Architectural Guidelines, which will be completed through a future public outreach and public hearing process with the Development Review Board.

Old Town - Frequently Asked Questions

The following are frequently asked questions related to the Old Town Scottsdale Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Guidelines update process:

Originally adopted by the City Council in 1984, updated in 2009, and again most recently in 2018, the Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan (formerly Downtown Plan) serves as the comprehensive policy document that guides growth and development decisions for Downtown Scottsdale. The plan contains goals, policies illustrative graphics and suggested projects to articulate and achieve the community’s vision for Old Town Scottsdale.

The Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan is a goal and policy document that helps guide growth and development decisions for downtown. The Downtown sections (Downtown, Downtown Overlay, and Planned Block Development Districts) of the Zoning Ordinance are regulations that provide specific land use and development standards for each property in downtown. These regulatory standards help implement the community’s vision and goals for downtown, as described in the Old Town Scottsdale Character Area Plan.

The original Old Town Character Area Plan (then Downtown Plan) was adopted in 1984. After 20+ years, the Downtown Plan went through an extensive update in 2009 largely due to the fact that the implementation items under the 1984 Plan had been accomplished. In 2018, the Plan was again updated because the vast majority of implementation items incorporated into the 2009 Plan were achieved. At the same time, a tourism rebranding/renaming of Downtown to Old Town occurred, thus the change from Downtown Plan to Old Town Character Area Plan. The public outreach for updating the Plan in 2018 occurred over a period of nine months, and the updated plan was unanimously adopted by the City Council in July 2018.

On June 22, 2021 City Council requested future public outreach to consider the following (with no priority in the listing):

  • The provision of quality new development and redevelopment;
  • Development Type designations, locations, and transitions to one another found in the Plan;
  • The consideration of development flexibility in the Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Guidelines;
  • Re-examination of the use of downtown land use designations, districts, and development types in the Plan and Ordinance;
  • The provision of more interconnected, public open space areas in Old Town;
  • Providing stronger development requirements in the Zoning Ordinance and the Old Town Scottsdale Urban Design and Architectural Guidelines;
  • Maintaining, adding, restricting, reducing, or removing Zoning Ordinance base development standards and bonus provisions; and
  • Ensuring that bonus provisions within the Zoning Ordinance, if maintained, provide greater and better-defined public benefits, and re-examining bonus payment calculations.

To promote best practices with public outreach, the Public Participation Plan includes opportunities for community involvement such as open houses, focus groups, presentations to community groups, and online engagement that began in Fall of 2021, with a tentative conclusion to the process that will include Planning Commission and City Council public hearings in the Spring of 2024.

You can register and participate in public participation opportunities as they are made available and/or provide input by submitting your comments online, above. Furthermore, you may participate in the Planning Commission and City Council public meetings by submitting written comments or speaking in-person at these meetings.

Contact Information

Email: [email protected]

Adam Yaron
Planning & Development Area Manager, Long Range Planning
P: 480-312-2761

Brad Carr, AICP
Planning & Development Area Manager, Current Planning
P: 480-312-7713