Glossary of Preservation Law Terms

Abandoned Shipwreck Act: Federal law vesting title to abandoned shipwrecks found in state territorial waters, thereby enabling the preservation of historic shipwrecks.

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP): Independent federal agency responsible for implementing the Section 106 review process.

Affirmative Maintenance: Requirement in historic preservation ordinances that a building's structural components are maintained.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Law prohibiting discrimination to persons with disabilities, by requiring, among other things, that places generally open to the public, such as restaurants and hotels, be made accessible. Special rules apply to historic buildings and facilities.

Appellate Review: Review of lower court or agency decision generally based on evidence in the record.

Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA): Primary federal statute governing archeological resources.

"As Applied" Claim: Term used to describe argument that a law has been unconstitutionally applied.

Building Code: Law setting forth minimum standards for the construction and use of buildings to protect the public health and safety.

Certificate of Appropriateness (COA): Certificate issued by a preservation commission to indicate its approval of an application to alter, demolish, move, or add on to a protected resource.

Certified Local Government: A city or town that has met specific standards enabling participation in certain National Historic Preservation Act programs.

Charitable Contribution: A donation to a charitable organization whose value may be deducted from gross income for purposes of determining how much tax is owed.

Comprehensive Plan: Official plan adopted by local governments that guides decision making over proposed public and private actions affecting community development.

Contributing Structure: Building or structure in historic district that generally has historic, architectural, cultural, or archeological significance.

Demolition by Neglect: Process of allowing a building to deteriorate to the point where demolition is necessary to protect public health and safety.

De Novo Review: Review of matter for the first time or in the same manner as originally heard.

Designation: Act of identifying historic structures and districts subject to regulation in historic preservation ordinances or other preservation laws.

Due Process: Protection of constitutionally protected rights from arbitrary governmental action. Requires notice and opportunity to be heard.

Easement (Preservation or Conservation): Partial interest in property that can be transferred to a nonprofit organization or governmental entity by gift or sale to ensure the protection of a historic resource and/or land area in perpetuity.

Economic Hardship: Extreme economic impact on individual property owner resulting from the application of a historic preservation law.

Eligible Property: Property that meets the criteria for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places but is not formally listed.

Eminent Domain: The right of government to take private property for a public purpose upon payment of "just compensation."

Enabling Law: Law enacted by a state setting forth the legal parameters by which local governments may operate. Source of authority for enacting local preservation ordinances.

Environmental Assessment or Impact Statement (EA or EIS): Document prepared by state or federal agency to establish compliance with obligations under federal or state environmental protection laws to consider impact of proposed actions on the environment, including historic resources.

Executive Order: Official proclamation issued by the President that may set forth policy or direction or establish specific duties in connection with the execution of federal laws and programs.

Facial Claim: Term used to describe argument that law is unconstitutional in all situations.

Finding: Factual or legal determination made by an administrative body or court upon deliberation.

Guidelines: Interpretative standards or criteria that are generally advisory in form.

Historic District: An area that generally includes within its boundaries a significant concentration of properties linked by architectural style, historical development, or a past event.

Keeper of the National Register: Individual in the National Park Service responsible for the listing in and determination of eligibility of properties for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

Land Trust: A nonprofit organization engaged in the voluntary protection of land for the purpose of providing long-term stewardship of important resources, whether historical, archeological, or environmental, through the acquisition of full or partial interests in property.

Land Use: General term used to describe how land is or may be utilized or developed, whether for industrial, commercial, residential or agricultural purposes, or as open space.

Landmark: A site or structure designated pursuant to a local preservation ordinance or other law that is worthy of preservation because of its particular historic, architectural, archeological, or cultural significance.

Lien: A claim or charge on property for payment of debt, obligation, or duty.

Memorandum of Agreement (MOA): Document executed by consulting parties pursuant to the Section 106 review process that sets forth terms for mitigating or eliminating adverse effects on historic properties resulting from agency action.

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): Primary federal law requiring consideration of potential impacts of major federal actions on the environment, including historic and cultural resources.

National Historic Landmark (NHL): Property included in the National Register of Historic Places that has been judged by the Secretary of the Interior to have "national significance in American history, archeology, architecture, engineering and culture."

National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA): The federal law that encourages the preservation of cultural and historic resources in the United States.

National Register of Historic Places: Official inventory of "districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture."

Native American Graves and Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA): Federal law providing for the repatriation of Native American human skeletal material and related sacred items and objects of cultural patrimony.

Passive Activity Rules: Prohibits the use of deductions and credits from "passive activities" (those in which the taxpayer is not involved on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis) to offset income and taxes owned from "non-passive" activities.

Public Buildings Cooperative Use Act: Federal law governing the construction, acquisition, and management of space by the General Services Administration for use by federal agencies.

Police Power: The inherent authority residing in each state to regulate, protect, and promote the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare.

Precedent: A prior case or decision similar or identical in fact or legal principle to the matter at hand that provides authority for resolution in a similar or identical way.

Procedural Laws: Those laws that prescribe the method in which rights and responsibilities may be exercised or enforced.

Rational Basis: Standard of review applied by appellate courts that affords high deference to the wisdom or expertise of an administrative body.

Regulations: Rules promulgated by an administrative agency that interpret and implement statutory requirements.

Rehabilitation Tax Credit: Twenty percent federal income tax credit on expenses for the substantial rehabilitation of historic properties.

Revolving Fund: Fund established by a public or nonprofit organization to purchase land or buildings or make grants or loans to facilitate the preservation of historic resources.

Section 106: Provision in National Historic Preservation Act that requires federal agencies to consider effects of proposed undertakings on properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Section 4(f): Provision in Department of Transportation Act that prohibits federal approval or funding of transportation projects that require "use" of any historic site unless (1) there is "no feasible and prudent alternative to the project," and (2) the project includes "all possible planning to minimize harm."

Site Plan: Proposed plan for development submitted by the property owner for review by a planning board or other governmental entity that addresses issues such as the siting of structures, landscaping, pedestrian and vehicular access, lighting, signage, and other features.

Special Permit: Device allowing individual review and approval of a proposed development.

State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO): Official appointed or designated, pursuant to the National Historic Preservation Act, to administer a state's historic preservation program.

Subdivision: Act of converting land into buildable lots. Ordinances generally set forth standards for layout of streets, utility systems, stormwater management, and so forth.

Substantial Evidence: Standard of review applied by courts in reviewing governmental decisions. A decision will be upheld if supported by such evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support a certain conclusion.

Substantive Laws: Those laws that create, define, and regulate specific rights as opposed to those which set forth the process or means for the enforcement of such rights or obtaining redress.

Sunshine Law: General term applied to laws that require meetings of governmental agencies and other authorities be open.

"Taking" of Property: Act of confiscating private property for governmental use through "eminent domain" or by regulatory action.

Tax Abatement: A reduction, decrease, or diminution of taxes owed, often for a fixed period of time.

Tax Assessment: Formal determination of property value subject to tax.

Tax Credit: A "dollar for dollar" reduction on taxes owed.

Tax Deduction: A subtraction from income (rather than taxes) that lowers the amount upon which taxes must be paid.

Tax Exemption: Immunity from an obligation to pay taxes, in whole or in part.

Tax Freeze: A "freezing" of the assessed value of property for a period of time.

Transferable Development Right (TDR): Technique allowing landowners to transfer right to develop a specific parcel of land to another parcel.

Undertaking: Federal agency actions requiring review under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Zoning: Act of regulating the use of land and structures according to district. Laws generally specify allowable use for land, such as residential or commercial, and restrictions on development such as minimum lot sizes, set back requirements, maximum height and bulk, and so forth.