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Chisago County, Minnesota

Chisago County, population 48,349 (2004), sits across the St. Croix River from the State of Wisconsin. The County features lakes and other recreational amenities yet it lies only 20 miles north of Minneapolis/St. Paul. As a result, it is one of the fastest growing counties in the State of Minnesota.

The County’s Development Transfer Overlay (DO) District is designed to allow transfers between areas within the district in order to reduce development in the Chisago County Green Corridor. The sending area, or Development Transfer Protection Area, is that portion of the Green Corridor that lies within the DO District. A development credit is granted upon the creation of a covenant restricting development on an area of undeveloped land capable of supporting one single-family residence according to the underlying zoning. A property owner can request a rezoning to the Protection and Transfer District which changes on-site density from one unit per five acres to one unit per 20 acres. In return, the credit allocation rate increases from one credit per five acres under covenant to 1.25 credits per five preserved acres as well as one bonus credit for the landowner’s residence.

The DO District also overlays the Upper St. Croix Overlay (USO) and Lower St. Croix Overlay (LSO) Districts, which allow a maximum density of one residence per 20 acres. The USO increases potential development credits from one credit per five acres to 1.25 credits per five acres as well as one extra credit for the on-site owner’s residence. All land in a third District, the Sunrise Scenic Overlay (SSO) is also overlaid by the DO District. At the option of the owner, land in the SSO can serve as either a sending or a receiving area. If the land is used as a sending area, credit allocation is at the rate of 1.25 credits per five acres.

The County’s Development Transfer Receiving Area, or DTRA, is all land in the DO District that is not designated as Development Transfer Protection with the exception of land in the UR District. Receiving area developments in the RRI and RRII Districts served by communal sewerage and water systems can exceed the density maximum of the underlying zoning district by 50 percent as long as minimum lot size does not decrease by more than one third of one acre. In the Agricultural District, maximum density cannot increase by more than 100 percent using development credits.

The Ordinance requires the County to establish and operate a Development Credit Exchange to receive and retire credits. The Exchange is also designed to review, approve, renew and record development covenants. The County and its designees are specifically allowed to purchase and resell credits prior to their use in a receiving site development.