What is a Transfer of Development Rights?

Transfer of development rights, or TDR, refers to a planning method for protecting land by transferring the “rights to develop” from one designated area of a jurisdiction and giving them to another. What is actually occurring during a transfer of development rights is a consensus to place conservation easements on property in order to preserve or protect the following areas:

  • open space
  • natural resources
  • farmland
  • urban areas of historical importance

All of this while allowing for an increase in development densities or “bonuses” in other areas that are being developed, too. The transfer of development rights is a fairly complex public intervention in the private land market. These programs can be very complex and very difficult to administer, which is why calling upon a lawyer with experience is a smart decision.

In order to be effective, a transfer of development rights program should be simple and easy for landowners and the public to understand. The county, municipality, or regional planning area must have a solid plan and zoning ordinances in order to support a transfer of development rights program.

TDRs will not work in very rural areas where there is little or no development
pressure on the area to be preserved. When working in predominantly rural areas, there is also likely to be an imbalance between sending and receiving areas. In these areas, a transfer of development rights program would be inappropriate. However, it can be revisited in the future. A locality may also experience push-back in a receiving area that believes increased density is inappropriate for their community.

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What Makes Transfer of Development Rights Work?

Here are some key factors that contribute to the success of transfer of development rights programs. These factors include:

Receiving Areas Customized to the Community

By using a comprehensive plan, communities must identify a development area where the public supports higher density development. One that has the roads, sewers, and other infrastructure to support any additional development.

Demand for Bonus Development

There needs to be a demand for the extra density that developers can obtain through these TDRs. Downzoning is one method of maintaining transfer of development rights demand, but it can be a politically unpopular move.

Strict Sending-Area Development Regulations

Communities with strict sending area regulations are more likely to succeed. Higher density levels increase the potential development value of land. If sending areas have high potential development values, then landowners are not likely to sell their development rights. It is also highly unpopular to downzone any properties. Due to this, areas should be chosen that already have low density

Transfer Ratios and Conversion Factors

Transfer of development rights programs are more likely to succeed if
the value of the TDRs in the receiving area exceeds their value in the sending area. For example, if the value of a TDR in a sending area equals one unit per acre, the program will likely be more successful if the TDR’s value in the receiving area is greater than one unit per acre.

On top of that, some transfer of development rights programs uses conversion factors that allow developers to convert residential development rights to other types of development rights at a receiving site. This includes factors such as building height or lot coverage. These factors make TDRs more attractive to buyers and sellers.

Few or No Alternatives to TDR for Additional Development

Many TDR programs succeed where landowners have few or no alternative methods for obtaining additional development rights.

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Contact Our Law Office Today

Elsie Acevedo Attorney at Law is here to help people across Suffolk County, Long Island with their real estate needs, which includes acting as a lawyer for transfer of development rights. If you need legal assistance regarding real estate matters, then please reach out to our law office today.

When you reach out to us, we can provide you with free, no-obligation consultation to go over any real estate legal issues you may be experiencing.

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