All These Acronyms

Development and land use issues come with dozens of acronyms which can make it difficult to understand or follow along. Here's a short list of acronyms you're bound to come across in articles and meetings dealing with preservation and development here in Austin.

Glossary of Terms

Capitol View Corridors: Geographic areas around the Texas Capitol where building height is limited to protect views of the Capitol building from various vantage points. View corridors ensure that significant buildings are not subsumed by new high-rise development.

CodeNEXT: City of Austin initiative to rewrite the Land Development Code, which determines how land can be used throughout the city. This includes rewriting the city’s zoning categories using a blend of form-based and use-based zoning to determine what can be built, and where it can be built, citywide.

Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan: This 30-year plan was adopted in 2012 and incorporates contributions from community members. It provides a vision for Austin’s future and lays out strategies for achieving those goals.

Overlay District: A tool that establishes special development requirements in a certain physical area. A City government might establish a zoning overlay to protect natural or built features such as wetlands, historic buildings, or waterfronts. This tool may be used to regulate the use of land within such a zone or they may regulate development patterns. Typically, historic zoning is an overlay to the base zoning of a property or area.


ACDDC: Austin Community Design and Development Center

This local nonprofit focuses on affordable housing opportunities in Austin. They work through “community-engaged design” to achieve inclusive and sustainable neighborhoods. The ACDDC has partnered with other organizations on the recent Alley Flat Initiative which encourages property owners to build green, affordable homes in the backyards of single family residential lots.

ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act

This 1990 law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in numerous public realms. In terms of development and design, new construction and modifications to historic buildings generally are expected to comply with ADA requirements. However, if compliance would threaten or destroy the historic integrity of a significant historic building, exceptions can be requested.

ADU: Accessory Dwelling Unit

This type of building is known by many different names, such as a secondary unit, garage apartment or a granny flat. Traditionally these dwellings would be behind the primary house on a single-family lot and possibly accessed from an alley. ADUs are becoming increasingly popular in Austin in light of rising housing prices. Organizations such as the ACDDC (see above) are working with property owners to construct ADUs both as a means to increase a homeowner’s income and to provide more affordable rental housing to Austin’s growing population.

AIA: American Institute of Architects

The primary professional organization for architects in the United States. The AIA provides education, advocacy and outreach.

BoA: Board of Adjustment

A City Council-appointed board that primarily hears cases regarding variances from zoning requirements, requests for special exceptions, and administrative appeals.

BID: Business Improvement District


CDBG: Community Development Block Grant

These federal funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are often given to local governments to be used for programs and activities that benefit low-to-moderate income persons. CDBG monies often fund such activities as improvements to public housing and lead abatement programs in lower income areas.

CDC: Community Development Corporation

These are nonprofit, community based organizations that focus on community development in the areas in which they are located. They often work to promote economic development as well as increasing opportunities for things like affordable housing or increased city services. 

CID: Community Improvement District


CLG: Certified Local Government

City and county governments participate in this federal program which is administered by SHPOs (SEE SHPO BELOW) and by the National Park Service. CLGs must establish and maintain preservation programs in their communities that meet federal standard, including enacting a preservation ordinance and maintaining a landmark commission. In exchange, CLGs are eligible for grants and important technical assistance. Our SHPO in Texas is the Texas Historical Commission, which administers the CLG program.

COA: Certificate of Appropriateness

This document states the outcome of an application to the Historic Preservation Office or the Historic Landmark Commission (HLC). When an application is submitted to the City of Austin’s Historic Preservation Office, it can either be approved by office staff or sent to the HLC for a public hearing. Once the application is heard, if an action is taken, a Certificate of Appropriateness may be issued stating what was approved. Typically, a COA is needed in order to pull permits for work on buildings with local historic landmark designation and for buildings within local historic districts.

CRM: Cultural Resource Management

This is the field of managing, identifying, surveying, and otherwise interacting with historically and culturally significant resources. The term applies to historic preservation as well as archeology. You often see this term when referring to a consulting firm hired to perform an historic resource survey or assessment of an area or a specific property.

DAA: Downtown Austin Alliance

A partnership organization dedicated to enhancing downtown’s appeal to businesses, residents and visitors through advocacy, planning and services.

DSD: Development Services Department

This City of Austin department is responsible for reviewing construction plans and issuing building permits.

EDC: Economic Development Corporation

Similar to a Community Development Corporation (CDC), an EDC is a nonprofit organization which tries to promote economic development within a specific geographical area. EDCs generally look at long term economic development and growth. There are both local and state level EDCs which may work together to incentivize investment in certain areas.

ETJ: Extraterritorial Jurisdiction

This is the unincorporated land just outside Austin’s city limits. Each municipality is accorded a buffer zone under the Texas Local Government Code as a means of defining and helping plan for potential future growth. Properties in the ETJ may have access to some city services. The City has an interest in annexing land in the ETJ to increase its tax base and have more control over growth and development that occurs there.

FBC: Form-Based Codes (also called Form-Based Zoning or FBZ)

This is a method of managing land development through regulations that govern the physical form of new construction, as opposed to Euclidean Zoning which regulates use. FBCs, which are often a response to urban sprawl, focus on achieving a certain level of mixed uses, urban density, and walkability, typically in urban centers.

FLUM: Future Land Use Map


HD: Historic District

A group of buildings, properties or sites that has been designated historic by a governing body. There are local, state and national level historic districts:

At the LOCAL level in Austin and many other places, a historic district is designated by a zoning overlay of “HD” (see "Overlay District" in the Glossary above). This is typically the designation that comes with the highest degree of protection for the resources within it. Typically, changes to any building within a local historic district will require approval by the city’s Historic Preservation Officer or a commission such as Austin’s Historic Landmark Commission (see HLC below).

At the STATE level in Texas, historic districts are designated by the Texas Historical Commission and may come with some protection under state law (see RTHL and SAL below). State level historic districts are rare—most state level historic designations apply to individual buildings or properties. A description of state designation options is available through the Texas Historical Commission (see SHPO below).

At the NATIONAL level, historic districts are listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), a process that involves both state and national review through SHPOs and the National Park Service. NRHP listing alone does not offer protection under the law, but some local authorities choose to review or regulate National Register districts in a similar way to how they regulate local historic districts (see NR or NRHP below).

HLC: Historic Landmark Commission

This 11-person commission, appointed by City Council and the Mayor, reviews historic zoning applications; reviews certificates of appropriateness and tax exemption applications for city landmarks; and reviews all demolition permits in local historic districts, National Register districts, and for all buildings over 50 years old. Members typically have experience in fields related to historic architecture such as architectural history, history, architecture, archeology, real estate, etc. See "How to Attend an HLC Meeting: Step By Step for the Layperson" in our Advocacy Toolkit for more.

HOT: Hotel Occupancy Tax (often referred to as HOT funds)

The Municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax Statute, Texas Tax Code 351.101 provides that Municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) revenues may be used to fund nine eligible categories of expenditures that have been found to promote tourism and the hotel and convention industries. Historic preservation is number five in this list of nine categories:

5. Historical restoration and preservation projects or activities or advertising and conducting solicitations and promotional programs to encourage tourists and convention delegates to visit preserved historic sites or museums:  
   (A) at or in the immediate vicinity of convention center facilities or visitor information centers; or
    (B) located elsewhere in the municipality or its vicinity that would be frequented by tourists and convention delegates

HPO: Historic Preservation Officer

A local or county employee who is responsible for historic preservation review in that community. In Austin, the HPO is Steve Sadowsky with the City of Austin’s Planning and Zoning Department.

HTC: Historic Tax Credit

These are incentives designed to incentivize rehabilitation and preservation of historic buildings. Texas established the Texas Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program in 2015, which is intended to be used on its own or in conjunction with the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program which has been in place in its current form since 1986. Some cities and municipalities have established local tax incentives in addition to these state and federal programs.

LIHTC: Low Income Housing Tax Credit

A federal program designed to incentivize development of affordable rental housing for low-income households. The LIHTC was created in 1986 and provides a tax credit to projects that meet the requirements of a qualified low-income project.

MUD: Municipal Utility District

A political subdivision of the state authorized by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality to provide water, sewage, drainage and other utility-related services within its boundaries.

NA: Neighborhood Association

A group of residents or property owners who advocate or organize activities within a certain neighborhood or geographical area.

NMTC: New Market Tax Credit

This program incentivizes business and real estate investment in low income communities nationwide. The goal is to encourage investment in distressed areas.

NR or NRHP: National Register of Historic Places

This list, authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, is managed by the National Park Service. It contains the properties in the US that are “worthy of preservation.” In order for a property to be added to the National Register, a nomination is submitted to the Texas Historical Commission (see SHPO below) for review. It is then sent to the National Park Service for additional review, and finally for listing by the Keeper of the National Register. A property must retain architectural integrity and meet certain criteria for significance in order to be eligible for the National Register. Listing alone does not guarantee protection of historic resources, but in some areas, local ordinances may govern how such properties are treated. (See HD above for information on Austin’s approach to NR-listed properties.)

NTHP: National Trust for Historic Preservation

A privately funded, nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC that advocates for historic preservation. The National Trust was founded in 1949 to help preserve the nation’s built heritage. In addition to advocacy efforts, they provide educational resources and an annual conference.

PAZ/P&Z: Planning and Zoning Department

The City department that regulates much of the development process through both the Planning Commission and the Zoning and Platting Commission. These bodies vote on such requests as zoning changes and land subdivision. The Planning Commission also makes annual recommendations on capital improvements. The P&Z is involved with Imagine Austin and CodeNEXT (see our Glossary of Terms above).

PID: Public Improvement District (sometimes referred to as a Business Improvement District, or BID)

A designated geographic area organized by property owners and businesses and approved by City Council. Austin has three Maintenance and Operations Public Improvements Districts (M&O PIDs): Austin Downtown, East Sixth Street (also downtown) and South Congress. In addition to standard city services, these PIDs organize to provide security, common-area maintenance, minor improvements, beautification and marketing. PIDs are intended to help businesses and support community efforts. This is similar to a Business Improvement Districts (BID) or Community Improvement Districts (CID).

PT: Preservation Texas

Texas’ statewide preservation advocacy group. Based in Austin, Preservation Texas is a “private, nonprofit, member-supported organization dedicated to protecting the historic resources of Texas.” Preservation Texas advocates for endangered historic resources and provides educational opportunities throughout the year.

PUD: Planned Unit Development

A zoning category that allows for negotiation between the municipality and the developer for a particular parcel. Developers are often permitted to alter the base zoning regulations in exchange for creating a higher quality project (example: they may be allowed more density by creating new public open spaces)

RTHL: Recorded Texas Historic Landmark

A state-level designation for an individual historic building. RTHLs are properties determined to have historic and architectural significance. They are designated by the Texas Historical Commission (THC - see SHPO below). This designation comes with a measure of protection under state law, meaning that any changes to the exterior of a designated RTHL requires review by the THC. RTHLs are required to display a marker either on the building or on the property.

SAL: State Antiquities Landmark

A state-level landmark designation for both architectural properties and archaeological sites. SALs are designated by the Texas Historical Commission (THC - see SHPO below) and receive legal protection under the Antiquities Code of Texas. These are often—though not necessarily—publicly owned properties. Any work to a designated SAL may require that a permit be issued by the THC. This includes both interior or exterior changes.

SHPO: State Historic Preservation Officer

Under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA), each US state, territory and the District of Columbia has an appointed State Historic Preservation Officer. The acronym SHPO is also frequently applied to the office or agency that the State Historic Preservation Officer heads. In Texas, this is the Texas Historical Commission (THC). Each SHPO is responsible for carrying out the duties laid out in the NHPA in addition to identifying historic properties in their state, providing public information, education, and assistance.

SOI: Secretary of the Interior

The Secretary of the Interior is a Cabinet position appointed by the President. This position oversees the Department of the Interior which includes, among many other things, the National Park Service and National Register of Historic Places (see NR or NRHP above). As pertains to historic preservation, the Secretary of the Interior has defined standards for the treatment of historic properties, which are widely used as guiding principles by preservationists throughout the country.

STR: Short-Term Rental

A type of rental property that is regulated by city government. STRs, also called ‘vacation rentals,’ are properties that can be rented for short amounts of time, usually not more than 30 days. The City of Austin defines three types of STR based on several factors such as whether the unit is owner-occupied of part of a larger residential structure. Companies such as AirBNB and HomeAway operate STRs.

TAS: Texas Accessibility Standards

Design standards adopted by the state of Texas which ensure that new construction and alterations to existing buildings are accessible to all. The Americans with Disabilities Act (see ADA above) sets federal standards for public facilities. State and local governments may also choose to adopt their own set of standards in addition to the ADA requirements.

TCAD: Travis Central Appraisal District

TCAD is responsible for determining the value of all property within Travis County. As an advocacy tool, people can search in the TCAD website to find out who owns a certain property, what the parcel’s zoning classification is, and the history of improvements on the property. See "Who Owns It, How’s It Zoned?" in our Advocacy Toolkit for more.

TDLR: Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

The state agency responsible for issuing licenses for numerous professions and trades, such as electricians, costmetologists, and elevator/escalator technicians, among others. TDLR also administers the Texas Accessibility Standards (see TAS above) by reviewing and inspecting building plans for compliance with these standards.

THC: Texas Historical Commission


TIF: Tax Increment Financing

A public financing method used as a subsidy for redevelopment, infrastructure and other community-improvement projects. This is a tool used by many local governments to encourage community improvement. A tax increment is the difference between the amount of property tax revenue generated before TIF district designation and the amount of property tax revenue generated after TIF designation.

TIRZ: Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone

A political subdivision of a municipality or county created to implement tax increment financing.

TPID: Tourism Public Improvement District