What is Scottsdale’s ESLO?

The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance (ESLO) is a set of zoning regulations adopted by the City Council in 1991 (amended in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2007) to guide development throughout the 134 square miles of desert and mountain areas of northern Scottsdale. These areas are generally located north and east of the Central Arizona Project canal.

The intent and purpose of the ESLO is to identify and protect environmentally sensitive lands in the City and to promote public health and safety by controlling development on these lands. The ordinance requires that a percentage of each property be permanently preserved as Natural Area Open Space and that specific environmental features be protected, including vegetation, washes, mountain ridges and peaks, to assure appropriate development.


The Environmentally Sensitive Lands Ordinance has been established in order to:

  • Encourage the protection of unique and sensitive natural features in the Upper Sonoran Desert, including but not limited to the mountains and hills, large rock formations, native landscape, archaeological and historical sites and significant washes,
  • Encourage development that blends with the character and nature of this special desert setting,
  • Protect the public and property from the special hazards that can be found in this desert setting, and
  • Minimize the costs to build and maintain the public infrastructure needed to sustain the use of the land.

This ordinance is not intended to deny the reasonable use of the land, but rather guide its use in ways that are sustainable and recognize the unique opportunities this setting provides.

Community Benefit
The ESLO has a direct impact on the residents of Scottsdale by determining the location and design of residential, commercial, industrial and institutional development in almost two-thirds of the City. Application of the ESLO, and its predecessor the Hillside Ordinance, has resulted in the preservation of over 9,000 acres of Sonoran Desert open space while protecting our residents from potential flooding, erosion and detrimental visual impacts.

What are the penalties for not following the regulations of the ESLO?

For sites where the violation is in association with approved on-site construction, a violation of these provisions may result in re-inspections, requests to remedy, re-submittal of plans, or possibly a “stop work order”. For properties that are already built, violations of these regulations are considered a violation of the Zoning Ordinance and may be processed through the notice, ticketing, court proceedings and fines sections as provided by this ordinance.

For additional information see Scottsdale’s ESLO History.