Transferable Development Rights (TDR)
"Transferable Development Rights" (TDR) is a zoning tool that allows conservation and development to coexist within a municipality. TDR separates the development rights from a parcel (i.e., the "sending parcel") and applies those rights to another parcel (i.e., the "receiving parcel") that can be developed at a higher density, thus preserving the sending parcel for agricultural or other non-development use. TDR is a market-based approach that compensates the sending parcel and offers advantages to the receiving parcel through additional density.
TDR can also help to use existing utilities and infrastructure more efficiently because development can be redirected from undeveloped "Greenfield" areas. Existing communities can be strengthened and local tax bases can be improved.
The following advantages are associated with Transferable Development Rights programs:
- Conserves energy;
- Preserves environmentally sensitive or historic features;
- Preserves agricultural areas;
- Reduces infrastructure costs; and
- Links development and infrastructure.
The following limitations are associated with Transferable Development Rights programs:
- Cannot be mandated within a zoning ordinance (i.e., the tool is optional);
- Requires administrative oversight to track rights;
- Municipalities must ensure that the additional density can be accommodated by infrastructure, transit, school capacity, etc. ; and
- Cannot be used across municipal borders unless there is an inter-municipal agreement or when there is an inter-municipal comprehensive plan.
How to Use This Tool
TDRs work best when density is sent from Agricultural, Rural and Natural landscapes and into Suburban and Urban landscapes, where there are objectively-defined areas for preservation and for development. The municipality must determine how to assign development rights to the sending parcel.
TDR should be supported in the comprehensive plan based on physical analyses, and expressed in zoning. The sending and receiving areas must be clearly established in the zoning ordinance and on the zoning map. A build-out analysis may be used to determine a balance between sending and receiving areas.
The following are examples of townships in Chester County that have adopted TDR programs:
- Birmingham Township
- East Nantmeal Township
- East Vincent Township
- Highland Township
- Honey Brook Township
- London Grove Township
- Pocopson Township
- South Coventry Township
- West Pikeland Township
- West Vincent Township
- TDR is permitted by the Municipalities Planning Code Section 619.1. Land preservation can also be accomplished through land trusts holding conservation easements, agricultural land preservation board easements, etc.
- Birmingham Township has an example of a well-constructed TDR program. Birmingham Township's TDR program provides landowners in the agricultural holding area the option of transferring some or all of their development rights. Notably, one of the goals of Birmingham's TDR program is contained in its "purpose" statement: "Provide an equitable way to compensate landowners in the agricultural holding area who voluntarily forbear from developing land considered critical for maintaining the environmental and agricultural values which mark the present land use pattern in the Township."
- An analysis of TDR, prepared by the Brandywine Conservancy and the Montgomery County Planning Commission.