Understanding Natural Area Open Space
You may have heard about green space, but Scottsdale, Arizona has Natural Area Open Space (NAOS) that helps ensure that the beauty of the Sonoran Desert is preserved. If you are buying a home in Scottsdale or are thinking about building a home here, understanding NAOS is important.
NAOS is a portion of property deeded to the owner, but with an easement dedicating the land as NAOS which is recorded with the county. Even though you own the property, you are restricted from doing anything on that portion of the property. You definitely cannot build in the area. However, the restrictions don’t stop there. We are often asked if the trees in that area can be trimmed to improve the view. The answer is absolutely not. Put simply, the space needs to exist virtually untouched by humans. The wording used in the easement document is that space is to be undisturbed. This means technically you should not even walk in the area. It is to remain desert forever and can only serve as a home to the fascinating wildlife that exists in Arizona.
Know Where NAOS is Located on Your Property
When buying a home, it is good to know where the NAOS is located. When you receive your title report, the easement recording can be found in Schedule 2, Part B. Take the time to review the easement and understand where the NAOS is located.
A recent client experience illustrates why understanding where NAOS is on the property is important. We represented the Buyer in a transaction to purchase a home in North Scottsdale. The client wanted to add a barn structure so during the inspection period, the client looked into where the NAOS was located on the property. What they found was that a previous owner had added a second driveway at the back of the property. In doing so, they built the new driveway across the designated NAOS. They checked with the City of Scottsdale and were told that before they would be able to get a building permit for the additional structure, they would be required to cure the NAOS violation. This would be a relatively expensive process as they would have to remove the driveway and revegetate the area. While they still wanted the home, the need to fix the problem decreased the value of the property to the buyers. The two parties in the transaction agreed to a reduced price for the home based on the NAOS issue.
The formula for calculating how much land needs to be set aside for NAOS is somewhat complicated as it is based on the slope of the land and where the land is located. The calculation along with other useful information is available at the City of Scottsdale’s Environmentally Sensitive Land web page. It is possible to move the NAOS to another location on the property, but this involves surveys and detailed submission to the city, and it may or may not be approved. The City of Scottsdale has a publication that provides more in-depth information on NAOS.
If you want to do any maintenance on your NAOS, here are the city guidelines:
1. NAOS shall be permanently preserved in its natural condition to be self-sustaining.
2. The removal of small amounts of man-made trash and debris that may accumulate within NAOS is permitted.
3. Clearing, pruning, raking, and landscaping within NAOS areas is prohibited except as provided in Subsections 4., 5., and 6. below.
4. Maintenance of public non-paved trails within NAOS shall be subject to specific approval by the City.
5. The removal of man-made dumping piles and specified invasive, non-indigenous plants and weeds within NAOS shall be subject to specific approval by the City.
6. A defensible space will be permitted to be established and maintained around homes in Wildland/Urban Interface and Intermix areas as defined in Section 3.100. The removal of flash fuels, which include invasive annual grasses, for an area of thirty (30) feet from a habitable structure, to provide for fire safety around dwellings, is permitted, but shall not result in the destruction of native plants* within NAOS.
7. Dead or dying native plants within NAOS shall be left in place to provide wildlife habitat.
8. NAOS easements may be released by the Zoning Administrator only to the extent such releases conform to the standards set forth in Section 6.1060.F.