Cape Elizabeth, Maine
The Town of Cape Elizabeth, population 9,015 (2010), is located on the Atlantic coast seven miles south of Portland, Maine. In 1982, the Town adopted a TDR program designed to encourage the preservation of agriculture, water quality, natural areas, scenic views, greenbelts and historic resources. In 1997, the TDR program was amended and now seeks to preserve agriculture, scenic resources and places of historic and archeological significance.
As amended in 1997, the Cape Elizabeth TDR program refers to the TDR sending area as the transfer zone. Transfer zones include any parcels in the Residence A (RA) district that are identified on the Transfer Zone Map because they have one or more of the following four attributes.
- The land is used for agriculture.
- The Town’s visual analysis has identified the land as being of scenic value.
- The land has identified historic of archaeological significance.
- The land is used for forestry and is located within 250 of a public road.
Following the recordation of permanent conservation easements, the owners of potential sending sites can transfer development rights at the rate of one unit per 64,000 square feet of land area. On-site single-family residential development in the RA district can occur at the rate of one unit per 80,000 square feet or one unit per 66,000 square feet in subdivisions that comply with Open Space Zoning provisions. Consequently, either way, the program offers a transfer ratio that is somewhat higher than one-to-one.
Under the 1997 amendments, the RA district also serves as the receiving area. The Town Planning Board may approve proposed developments in the RA that exceed baseline density limits provided they comply with all of the following five criteria.
- The proposed development complies with the comprehensive plan.
- The proposed receiving parcel is not a designated sending parcel.
- Development rights equal to the proposed increase in density have been transferred from parcels in the Transfer Zone through conservation easements approved by the Planning Board.
- The proposed development will be a clustered development that complies with the Town’s Open Space Zoning.
- The proposed development parcel is at least 10 acres in size and meets the following maximum density standards.
- Connected to public sewer: one unit per 20,000 square feet of net residential area
- On-site sewage disposal when TDRs are from abutting parcel: one unit per 40,000 square feet of net residential area
- On-site sewage disposal when TDRs are from parcel in same ownership as development parcel: one unit per 40,000 square feet of net residential area
- On site sewage disposal when TDRs are from parcel within 2,000 feet of the development parcel: one unit per 50,000 square feet of net residential area
- On site sewage disposal when TDRs are from parcel more than 2,000 feet from development parcel: one unit per 60,000 square feet of net residential area
Assuming a baseline density of one unit per 66,000 square feet, TDR allows a density bonus that exceeds 200 percent when the receiving site has public sewerage. Alternatively, when the receiving site has on-site sewage disposal and is further than 2,000 feet from the sending parcel, the proposed development is allowed a relatively modest 10-percent density bonus.
The 1982 TDR program allowed TDRs to be created by 25-year conservation easements as well as perpetual easements. The new ordinance requires that the conservation easements be perpetual. The 1982 program required receiving sites to be served by public sewer systems. By allowing receiving sites to be served by on-site sewage disposal systems, the new ordinance greatly increases the potential receiving area.
The 1982 program was hampered by the Town’s policy on extensions of the public sewerage system. Specifically, in three referendums, the Town’s voters expressed a position that the sewer system should be growth neutral. As a result, it was often difficult for parcels to qualify for connection to the sewer system; for example, sewer connections were limited based on a parcel’s road frontage rather than on the size of the parcel. In addition to contributing to the proliferation of septic systems, these policies made it difficult to obtain the sewer service connections needed for parcels to qualify as TDR receiving sites under the 1982 TDR ordinance. However, by the mid- 1990s, the Town had changed its sewer policies and sewer service is now available to more parcels. In addition, the 1997 TDR ordinance addresses this issue even more directly by allowing sites with on-site sewage disposal to qualify as receiving parcels. In 2005, Town Planner Maureen O’Meara reported that the 1997 ordinance remained unchanged and that the TDR provisions had not been used.