Transfer of Development Rights

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Transfer of a Development Rights (TDR) is a growth-management strategy that establishes a market for the exchange of development rights between property owners. Property owners in a growth-restricted area are issued credits in compensation for any loss in development rights. These credits can be sold to property owners in specifically designated receiving areas, where they can be used to develop at higher densities than regulations would otherwise allow. The goal of a TDR strategy is to maintain fairness between landowners, while allowing a governing authority to manage land use.

Albemarle County study

A key group of Albemarle County stakeholders is evaluating whether a system of transferable development rights could help slow development of residential units in the County's rural areas. Under the County's Comprehensive Plan, 95% of Albemarle land is set aside for rural uses. However, an average of 300 homes a year have been built in these areas since 1980.

On October 3, 2006, Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky launched what he describes as a new rural area protection initiative for the county based on the Transfer of Development Rights[1]. The proposal would establish a system of exchange, allowing rural landowners to sell unused development potential to other landowners within a designated receiving area.

In order to encourage such a trade, Slutzky's proposal included two components. The receiving area would be slightly larger (6% of total land) than the current designated growth area of Albemarle county (5%), potentially creating more demand for purchasing credits. At the same time, the rural areas would be downzoned from 1 house per 21 acres to one house per 50 acres. The landowners facing downzoning would receive, from the county, a credit for the difference in development potential, thus creating an initial surge in supply for the market.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors officially heard Slutzky's proposal during their December 6, 2006 meeting[2]. The supervisors did not grant their support with a vote, but encouraged more study.

On February 15, 2007, General Assembly delegate David Toscano (D-58) passed enabling legislation that would allow, from the state level, a county to establish sending an recieving areas for a TDR program..[3].

The proposal generated some discussion from local leaders over the course of the year, becoming one of the issues of the 2007 Board of Supervisors election, but no significant progress was made toward public acceptance of the plan. The TDR plan remained dormant for a while.

A Renewed Discussion in 2008

Delegate Rob Bell (R-58) passed another bill In February of 2008 that further clarified the logistics of a TDR system for Albemarle county, especially the process of severing development rights from property ownership.[4]

In August of 2008, the Weldon Cooper Center hosted a series of meetings to restart the TDR discussion. The group was brought together by the Citizens Committee for City-County Cooperation (5-Cs), who originally took interest in Slutzky's proposal in 2006 and had been evaluating it themselves, and sponsored by the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors (CAAR). A wide variety of stakeholders were able to weigh in on the potential benefits or problems associated with TDRs [5].


  1. Charlottesville Tomorrow, retrieved on 1/12/09
  2. Charlottesville Tomorrow, retrieved on 1/12/09
  3. HB2503 from Richmond Sunlight, retrieved on 1/13/09
  4. HB991 from Richmond Sunlight, retrieved on 1/13/09
  5. Charlottesville Tomorrow, retrieved on 1/13/09

Success Factors for TDR programs