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Atlanta TDR Margaret Mitchell House 9490 WestLampeter San-Diego-Receiving-Zone South-Street-Seaport-154 San-Francisco-Actual-Certified-Sending-Site-635-Pine jefferson West_Hempfield HistoricDowntown

Charlotte County, Florida

BACKGROUND

Charlotte County, with a population of 141,627 (2000) and a projected 2.7% annual growth rate, lies on Florida’s Gulf Coast between Tampa and Fort Myers.  The County is physically split into three geographical regions: West, Mid, and South/East, by two rivers, the Myakka River and the Peace River.  The West region of the County includes miles of mangrove shoreline along the edges of the Myakka River and Charlotte Harbor as well as the barrier islands of Manasota Key and Gasparilla Island.  The West region’s mainland is developed and includes the communities of Englewood, Rotonda Circle, South Gulf Cove, as well as others.  The interior of Charlotte County, South/East region, is primarily composed of small lakes, swampland, and agricultural land.  In the Mid region of the County is the community of Port Charlotte.  Located on the opposite side of the Peace River from Port Charlotte is the City of Punta Gorda, the only municipality.  In Charlotte County, the majority of the land in the West and Mid regions of the County along with some coastal areas of the South/East region were subdivided beginning in the 1880’s. Much of these platted lands remain vacant and the County is forced to retro-plan for services, infrastructure, and growth management.

In 1988, the County adopted a Comprehensive Plan that called for the preservation of natural, historical, archeological and cultural resources.  To accomplish that goal, the County created land use restrictions that the County acknowledged could be burdensome to landowners.  To help alleviate this burden, the County adopted an ordinance in 1994 which allowed development rights to be severed from restricted properties and transferred to more suitable areas.  The ordinance provided landowners the opportunity to transfer development rights as an economic incentive to preserve these special resources.

In 2001, Charlotte County made significant amendments to its TDR ordinance. The Board of County Commissioners (Board) was designated to approve transfers rather than the Board of Zoning Appeals.  The County created more detailed criteria for sending and receiving zone designations in addition to allowing receiving zone (RZ) developers to make a payment-in-lieu-of-transfer into a County Land Acquisition Trust Fund.  The most important outcome of the adoption was the placement of a cap on density increases.  Due to the prolific subdivision of land, the County contains tens of thousands of units of potential residential density in the form of existing vacant lots with single-family and multi-family zoning designations.  The Board acknowledges that there is a sufficient supply of existing density to meet the development needs of the County for many years into the future.  By adopting the TDR ordinance, the provision for land use amendments to increase density is permitted by a transfer of density from a sending zone (SZ).

In 2004, Charlotte County made other amendments to its TDR ordinance. County staff and private land use practitioners jointly worked on amending the ordinance.  The name of the ordinance was changed to Transfers of Density Units (TDU).  More substantive changes include criteria for the density transfers as well as an annual review requirement.PROCESS

In the section entitled “Purpose”, Charlotte County’s 2004 TDU ordinance states that the intent of the ordinance is to protect ecologically valuable, historic and archeological resources, direct growth from areas less suited for development to areas better suited for development, promote creative and compact development, and reduce substandard lots.  The TDU provisions are designed to alleviate excessive burdens that zoning and land use regulations might have placed on property owners.

To qualify as a Sending Zone (SZ), a property must meet one of the following criteria:

A)  Contain ecological, historic or archeological resources.

B)  Located within the Tropical or Category 1 Storm Surge Zones.

C)  Platted with substandard lots.

D)  Located outside the Urban Service Area and contain a bona-fide agricultural use.

E)  Located in the Suburban area of the Urban Service Area, platted and not currently served or proposed to be served by water and sewer within the next five years.

F)  Vacant with an approved residential development plan that creates surplus density.

To transfer density, the SZ units must be certified by the Board of County Commissioners.  Once a property owner certifies the density, a certificate is issued and the ability to sell density units to others or utilize them for their own projects is permitted.  The property owner has the ability to retain some units on the SZ property; however, areas that contain ecological or archeological resources must have all of the density from the resource area transferred.  In order to be approved, a covenant, usually in the form of a conservation easement, must be attached to the property.  The covenant specifies the continued use of that property in perpetuity; for example, (1) develop X amount of density; (2) limited recreation; (3) depletion of development rights; and/or (4) the continuance of a bona fide agricultural use.  Further, if the property contains wetlands or listed species habitat, the transfer of density does not preclude the property owner from using that land for mitigation.  As part of the process, the SZ property owner must agree to a plat vacation and/or a rezoning and Future Land Use Map (FLUM) amendment to reflect the decrease in developable density.

To qualify as a Receiving Zone (RZ), a property must meet all of the following criteria.

A)  The property must be located in the Urban Service Area or within a New Community or Rural Community (both Community designations are for developments outside the Urban Service Area).

B) The Future Land Use Map must designate or propose to designate the property as Low Density Residential, Medium Density Residential, High Density Residential, Mixed Use, Rural Estate Residential, New Community or Rural Community.

C) The property does not contain habitat for species of special concern, threatened or endangered species, or it does not contain historic or archeological resources.  If such does exist, and the habitat does not cover the entire property, the property can become a RZ if those areas are protected or mitigated for.

D) The property is not located within the Tropical and Category 1 Hurricane Storm Surge Zones.  There is an exception to this criterion.  Density can be transferred to property within these zones if the SZ density is also from an equivalent surge zone and the flood zone is of an equivalent or greater hazard intensity.  There is also an exception to the exception, which applies to a community redevelopment area that is located almost entirely within the Tropical and Category 1 zones. Sending zone density can be transferred from either Tropical or Category 1 and from any flood zone regardless of the RZ designations.

Developers proposing to create a RZ must apply for a rezoning and, if necessary, an amendment of the FLUM.  The rezoning request must be for a Planned Development Zoning District if the proposal is to increase density beyond two units above the base density.  The base density is calculated upon the most restrictive of the zoning or FLUM densities.  The density is not required to be transferred to the RZ at the adoption of the rezoning and can be deferred until just prior to application for preliminary plat approval.  Or if there is no plat required, the density must be transferred prior to a request for development permits.  This provision regarding timing of the transfer was included at the request of developers who argued that it is difficult to compile density prior to the adoption of a rezoning since approval is not guaranteed.

Developers who prefer not to use Certificates of Transferable Density may deposit a “contribution fee” in the County Land Acquisition Trust Fund (LATF).  The amount of this deposit must be equal to the number of units of density proposed for the RZ multiplied by the unit price equivalent for a unit of density.  A process was established whereby the Charlotte County Real Estate Services Department would periodically review the acquisition price for property meeting the SZ criteria in different areas of the county.  This information would be conveyed to planning staff so that they could provide reasonable estimates to interested parties.  Once an applicant formally applies for a TDU utilizing the LATF, the Department would reevaluate the cost of acquisition of SZ property in the vicinity of the RZ and return that applicant a fixed price per unit within 10 days.

The applicant has the opportunity to pay the fixed price upon adoption of the TDU, or defer payment.  If deferred, the fixed price would become obsolete and the applicant would have to pay a recalculated price.  This flexible method allows the County to keep up with increasing land values.  There are two exceptions to the LATF. One is that property owners in the West region cannot purchase density and they must transfer it from another property within the West region only; this ensures that there is no increase of density in an area which is vulnerable to flooding and has restricted evacuation routes.  The other exception is that a RZ property owner within the Tropical Storm or Category 1 zones cannot purchase density because it would be difficult for the County to purchase equivalent coastal property.  Property acquired by the County through the LATF will most predominantly be environmentally sensitive land that can also be used for mitigation, but the County also has the option to purchase substandard platted lots to reassemble and resell, provided that the sale proceeds are deposited into the LATF.

TDU and Certification of Sending Zone applications require notice and public hearing.  The Board may grant an application if it finds that it complies with the code and that the proposed receiving site development is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Approvals are not effective until all documents are recorded.

After a TDU or Certification is approved and effective and density is transferred from the SZ, density cannot be restored to that SZ land unless the County designates the area as an Infill Area of the Urban Service Area. This Infill Area may become RZ if it meets all of the qualifications of a RZ zone.  In this case, all of the actions taken to increase density on a property would have to be followed.

The 2004 Ordinance also provides criteria for two appeal processes, one to the County Administrator and the other to the Board of County Commissioners.  The appeal to the Administrator is for relief from the procedural requirements of the code.  The appeal to the Board is for relief from the substantive requirements of the code.  Any provision of the code can be appealed to the Board but the Board must find that it meets a set of criteria before the appeal can be granted.  The Board appeal is a public hearing.PROGRAM STATUS

In late 2001, Charlotte County was processing its first Comprehensive Plan amendment, Biscayne Trust, requiring TDRs. It took over a year for the amendment to be approved.  Subsequent petitions were more expeditiously process and the program has continued to be utilized as a proven success.  Please refer to the table for more detailed information:

 

Transfer of Development Rights Summary Table

Name & Year

Units

Transferred

Acreage in

Conservation

Easement

Region

of

RZ

Region

of

SZ

Sending Zone Criteria

$ Paid

by

Applicant

 Biscayne Trust2003

528

197

Mid South/East

Wetlands and endangered species
habitat  (also substandard, platted lots)

 N/A

Lago del Sol

2003

102

25

Mid Mid

Endangered species habitat
for Scrub jays (also
substandard, platted lots)

 N/A

 Fitzsimmons2003

2

N/A

Utilized
LATF

West N/A

N/A

$7,400

LeMain

2003

1

N/A

Utilized
LATF

West N/A

N/A

$3,700

 Pawlikowski2003

1

N/A

Utilized
LATF

West N/A

N/A

 $3,700

 KB HomesCreekside

2004

193

30.8

South/East Mid

Endangered species habitat for Scrub jays (also substandard, platted lots)

 N/A

 Southwest FloridaLand 6 LLC

2005

45

2.3

Mid South/East

Endangered species habitat for Scrub jays & substandard, platted lots located outside the Urban Service Area

NA

 RealMark Tucker’sGrade

2005

650

38

South/East East

Substandard, platted lots located outside the Urban Service Area

 N/A

 KB Homes
Tuscany Isles2005 

55

12.6

South/East Mid

Endangered species habitat for Scrub jays (also substandard, platted lots)

N/A

Totals

1,577

326.4

$14,800

The County is currently establishing new procedures in order to administer the 2004 TDU ordinance. A new application format has been established and the creation of a tracking system is being implemented so that information on SZs and RZs is available to staff and the public.  Tracking transfers is crucial since transfers may be delayed beyond rezoning approval and certified density can be sold to multiple buyers.  Pre-application meetings are required and a summary of the discussion is filed as well as mailed to the applicant to include in the formal application packet.  Staff has entertained 17 pre-application meetings since March 2005.  As of June 2005, one completed Certification of a Sending Zone application had been submitted and adopted by the Board.  The details are listed in the table below:

 

Transfer of Density Units Summary Table

Name & Year

Units

Transferred

Acreage in

Conservation

Easement

Region

of

RZ

Region

of

SZ

Sending Zone Criteria

$ Paid

by

Applicant

Verde Park
2005

 3,583

 245.5

Easement allows
retention of
6 units
for future
development
and
continuation
of bona fide
agricultural uses

No RZ, Certification of Transferable Density Units only

South/East

substandard, platted lots located outside the Urban Service Area

 N/A