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How do I find my zoning in Austin, TX

Zoning guide

This is a guide to help those who wish to find the zoning information for a particular property in Austin by themselves.

Zoning analysis

It’s helpful to have a guide to make sure you are getting up-to-date, authoritative, and complete zoning information possible. That is what we are providing here. 

Essentially, there are 3 ways to find the zoning information you need to start any design, construction, or land valuation work. 

  1. Hire a local professional (i.e., architect, contractor, land-use attorney)

  2. Use UrbanForm

  3. Do it yourself

 

There are valid reasons to do any of the above. Depending on how you value your time, your pre-existing familiarity with the codes, and other factors, one or another method may be best for any given set of circumstances.

There are many for whom doing it themselves may be their best option.

This guide is for those who wish to figure out how best to get the zoning information they need in Austin, Texas. Please continue reading below. 

Navigating the process

Generally, there are 5 steps to the task of acquiring zoning information for any city. 

Use the links below to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

1. Understanding the jurisdictions.

The City of Austin is the capital city of the state of Texas, in the United States of America. It Is part of a larger metropolitan region called the Austin–Round Rock-Georgetown MSA (a US Census-defined Metropolitan Statistical Area), or Greater Austin, which has other incorporated cities such as the City of Round Rock and the City of Cedar Park.

 

Within the City of Austin boundaries are parts of Travis, Hays, Bastrop, and Williamson counties (make note not to confuse the City of Austin with Austin County, part of Houston’s MSA).

Screenshot 2023-06-27 120130.png

The City of Austin’s zoning is currently managed by the Housing and Planning Department (HPD), and its website can be found at: https://www.austintexas.gov/department/housing-planning

 

Permitting and other development services are managed by the Development Services Department (DSD), located at: https://www.austintexas.gov/dsd

 

Confusingly, it is often one city department that writes and prepares the zoning regulations, and another that manages compliance, enforcement, and development services.

 

While both are authoritative and are good sources for general zoning information, the DSD is more oriented towards serving working architects, builders, and developers, and should be the first place to start discovering or verifying information.

Austin Full Purpose

The boundaries of Austin City's Full Purpose limits are shown above within the dark black line and those are the areas that are governed by the CIty of Austin's Land Development Code (LDC) Title 25. 

Properties in this boundary are under the jurisdiction of the City of Austin's Title 25 and are served by UrbanForm. 

Navigating the process

Generally, there are 5 steps to the task of acquiring zoning information for any city. 

Use the links below to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

2. An overview of the zoning code. 

To get oriented with Austin’s zoning code, there are a couple of decent places to start. However, anything that is not the official first source is always flawed, and these guides (even though they’re published by the official sources) are no exception.

 

2a. City of Austin Guide to Zoning

The first is a PDF put out by the City of Austin’s HPD in 2016 (left). This is a good overview, but it is very outdated and there is already a discrepancy between the base zones listed in this guide and what is available in the latest GIS datasets.

https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Planning/zoning_guide.pdf

 

2b. Austin HPD Zoning Resources

The second, which seems a bit more up-to-date, is a web guide on the HPD website (bottom):

https://www.austintexas.gov/page/zoning-resources-site-regulations

 

Both are worth reviewing briefly.

Navigating the process

Generally, there are 5 steps to the task of acquiring zoning information for any city. 

Use the links below to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

3. Find the right zoning maps

Once we’ve established the jurisdiction and sources, we need to get the zoning information. There are two things that compose zoning in every jurisdiction: maps and text.

 

3a. Austin Property Profile

For Austin, the best online map option is a site maintained by the DSD called Property Profile: https://maps.austintexas.gov/GIS/PropertyProfile/

PropertyProfile1.png

Within Property Profile (https://maps.austintexas.gov/GIS/PropertyProfile/), you can search by address, or zoom in and select properties with the mouse button (above left). You can find the below information for a selected property:

 

  • Jurisdiction, Zoning, Council District, County, Map Grid, Place ID, Legal Description, and Permits

 

You can also find links to download a Property Profile Report (below), which shows zoning cases, ordinances, overlays, neighborhood plans, infill options, neighborhood restricted parking areas, historic landmarks, and others.

PropertyProfile2.png

3b. Appraisal Districts

Within Property Profile (https://maps.austintexas.gov/GIS/PropertyProfile/), there is also a link to the Appraisal District, which is shown below, and includes property value, tax, improvement, and deed information.

 

Of note is that the ID that links the Property Profile Report and the Appraisal District is called the Parcel ID in the Property Profile and the Geo ID in the Appraisal District.

TCAD1.png

3c. Note the zone name

To do a zoning analysis, or fully understand the the zoning parameters, the important thing to note is the zoning designation (called ZType in the Property Profile maps). 

This zoning designation name code is the key to reading the zoning code text. 

Navigating the process

Generally, there are 5 steps to the task of acquiring zoning information for any city. 

Use the links below to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

4. Read the text to pull out the relevant zoning information 

Once we've understood the jurisdictions, gotten a brief overview of the structure of the zoning code, and then found the right maps, the next step is to actually read through the zoning code itself. 

The zoning code is extremely long and complicated, and not all of it is relevant to every single property. 

Therefore, you need to understand where to look in the code for information about a specific property. 

The zone designation name is the key to doing this. 

4a. How to read a zone name in Austin

The zone name designation is the key to reading the zoning text. 

Because of this, the first thing to do is to understand what the zone designation means. It will help you find the right places in Title 25 to look for information pertaining to a specific property. 

Here's how to read a zoning name in Austin, per the HPD Guide (though last published in 2016, it still is valid):

 

Zoning districts are generally represented by a code, such as SF-3 or NO-MU-NP. Every property in Austin has a base zoning district. The City has 39 base zoning districts; each base zoning district and its code is listed in Table 1. Other zoning districts, called combining districts, provide additional regulations to base zoning districts (see Table 2). If a property is part of a combining district, its zoning code will list the base district code, followed by a dash, and then the combining district. For example, a mixed use (-MU) combining district applied to a neighborhood office district (NO) is shown as NO-MU. The zoning of a property may include multiple combining districts: NO-MU-H-NP is a neighborhood office (NO) district that allows mixed use (-MU), is a historic property (-H), and follows a neighborhood plan’s requirements (-NP).

Screenshot 2023-06-27 143240.png

4b. Use the zone name to guide you through the text

The zoning code text is called the Land Development Code (Title 25), and the most accessible online version is hosted by Municode:  https://library.municode.com/tx/austin/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=TIT25LADE

It’s always a good idea to start at the very beginning of the zoning code, and for Austin’s Title 25, that is the Definitions and Measurements. Reading about the Definitions and Measurements is not a bad place to start with any zoning code for any city, and with Austin, it’s at the very beginning, in § 25-1-21 – DEFINITIONS and § 25-1-22 – MEASUREMENTS.

From there, you need to start by looking up the regulations pertaining to your Base Zone, followed by your Combining District(s), if any. 

Unfortunately, it seems like regulations for each zone are scattered throughout Title 25, so it takes a bit of searching to make sure you identify all pertinent information that might apply to a property's zone.

We also need to pay attention to the Specific Area Regulations, which seem to be overlay zones outside of and overriding Title 25, and are available on the DSD website at:

https://www.austintexas.gov/department/specific-area-regulations

Screenshot 2023-06-27 143326.png

4c. Municode structure

The Municode can often be a bit disorienting to navigate through, so here is a quick diagram of how it is structured in the text and their corresponding links on the webpage:

Title 25 is structured into Chapters, Subchapters, Articles, Divisions, Sections, and outline elements (A., 1., b., 2., etc. ). But the headers in the text displayed in the Municode only refer to Title, Chapter, Section, and Section title (e.g., § 25-2-6 – Civic Uses Described).

4d. Note important regulations

As you are going through the Municode Title 25, note important regulations that may pertain to your property that will impact development and building. These may include, but are not limited to: 

  • Floor-area-ratio (FAR)

  • Height limits

  • Lot coverage

  • Impervious coverage

  • Minimum density

  • Maximum density

  • Allowable and prohibited uses

  • Setbacks

  • Stepbacks

  • Massing rules or upper-level development standards

Navigating the process

Generally, there are 5 steps to the task of acquiring zoning information for any city. 

Use the links below to skip to any particular section, or the button below to go back to the very beginning

If you've had enough, that's ok. UrbanForm has automated this entire process so you no longer have to do it manually by yourself. 

5. Document clearly the information and sources you've researched 

Once you've determined the correct jurisdiction, the right sources of information, gotten a general understanding of the structure of the zoning, found the maps, and identified all relevant base zone code designations as well as overlays, plan districts, and other location information, and read through the zoning code to identify the relevant parts, you now need to make sure you can reference this information easily. 

Zoning information needs to be studied, communicated to others, verified it with others, and used to justify your work. So the documentation of the zoning information you've researched is extremely important. 

This no small task, and the one that will save you the most time if you do it properly. 

Professionals often develop their own internal spreadsheets and documents to guide them through this process for each jurisdiction. This should be a part of their internal operations that help them create efficient professional processes. 

But the basic task is the same in any such process:

  1. identify the relevant information,

  2. write it down somewhere, and

  3. note the sources. 

Everything in this guide up until this point was just about accomplishing task number 1 above; each person will have their own preferred way of doing numbers 2 and 3. 

We understand that there are times when the old-fashioned, manual way of acquiring zoning information may be the most suitable. UrbanForm was developed as an alternative.  

Also, we understand that the sources are constantly evolving. One of UrbanForm's primary values is continual improvement, so if there is anything that anyone sees which could be improved, we'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment or reach out to us at our contact information below. 

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