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Delivering a first-rate transportation system for Seattle Scott Kubly, Director

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Transferable Development Rights

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) programs use market forces to simultaneously promote conservation in high-value natural, agricultural, and open-space areas while encouraging smart growth in developed and developing sections of a community.  Successful TDR programs have been in place throughout the country since 1980, and have protected tens of thousands of acres of farmland and open space.

In a TDR program, a community identifies an area within its boundaries which it would like to see protected from development (the sending zone) and another area where the community desires more urban-style development (the receiving zone). Landowners in the sending zone are allocated a number of development credits which can be sold to developers, speculators, or the community itself.  In return for selling their development credits, the landowner in the sending zone agrees to place a permanent conservation easement on his or her land.  Meanwhile, the purchaser of the development credits can apply them to develop at a higher density than otherwise allowed on property within the receiving zone.

Essentially, TDR is the exchange of zoning privileges from areas with low population needs, such as farmland, to areas of high population needs, such as downtown areas. These transfers allow for the preservation of open spaces and historic landmarks, while giving urban areas a chance to expand and experience continued growth. The quest for controlled growth requires creative planning and foresight. TDR is just one tool used in the battle to contain sprawl.

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