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Fremont County, Idaho

Fremont County, population 13,242 (2010), is located in eastern Idaho, bordered by Montana to the north and Wyoming to the east. Portions of Targhee National Forest and Yellowstone National Park constitute approximately half the land area of the County. The area’s natural beauty and recreational opportunities have led to increasing development pressure.

In response, the County adopted its first development code in 1992. This code contained a provision allowing development rights to be transferred from environmental areas and cropland to less sensitive receiving sites throughout the County. However, the County became concerned about the potential impacts to wildlife corridors and other natural resources if development rights were, in fact, transferred from one end of the County to the other. Consequently, the TDR provisions were amended in 1997 so that transfers can now only be made within each of the County’s three sub-areas.

As explained in the Program Status section below, the TDR provisions do not appear in the 2011 version of the County’s Development Code. Consequently, the following Process section describes the TDR program as it existed prior to the 2011 amendments.

Process (Per Pre-2011 Development Code)

Fremont County offers density transfers in the residential zones of three sub-county districts. The average density of residentially zoned land varies depending on the characteristics of the specific site. Average density is one unit per 40 acres of productive cropland, one unit per 25 acres of wetlands or land with slopes over 30 percent and one unit per ten acres for stream corridors or land with a slope of between 15 and 30 percent. All other land has an average density of one unit per 2.5 acres unless the cluster development provisions discussed below are used.

The County allows cluster developments that concentrate development on relatively small portions of a site and avoid construction on fragile environmental lands or productive cropland. To encourage cluster development, the County allows extra units within cluster developments to projects that meet achieve specified performance standards. These performance standards include control of erosion, wildfire hazards and weeds; protection of water quality, wetlands, stream corridors/floodplains, slopes, native plants, air quality, irrigation systems, farming operations and agricultural industries; and the assurance of land use compatibility.

In addition, cluster developments can get density bonuses for transferring development from wetlands, stream corridors, productive cropland and other critical areas located either within the same development or at a separate sending sites. Specifically, the number of units transferred can be doubled. However, the maximum density of a cluster development cannot exceed one unit per acre in two of the sub-county districts and one-half unit per acre in the third district. Transfers must meet the following criteria:

–   The sending sites must be parcels with productive cropland, wetlands, wildlife habitat, stream corridors or visually sensitive areas;

–   If the receiving sites contain productive farmland or critical environmental areas, these receiving sites must be less productive or less fragile than the sending sites; and

–   Legal descriptions of the sending sites must be provided along with instruments of conveyance when the transfers are between parcels in different ownership.

 

Program Status

The transfer provisions were used twice between 1992 and 2000, preserving over 80 acres of dry farmland. In a January 2001 update, Karen Lords, Planning and Building Department Administrator, reported two additional transfers in the Island Park Zoning District in the year 2000. The two sending sites were each approximately 40 acres in size and under a reservoir of water. Ms. Lords noted that although developers see the advantage of using the cluster and transfer options to increase the number of allowable units, there is also a strong demand for 20-acre estate lots.

 

In August 2011, the current Administrator of Planning and Building Department, Steven Loosli, explained that the TDR components were not carried forward into the 2011 edition of the Development Code because of slow transfer activity and because some of the transfers that had occurred resulted in the preservation of sending sites with no apparent development potential, including land subject to flooding. This led some observers to question whether the TDR program was an actual preservation tool. In addition, a significant policy of the County’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan aims to redirect future urban development out of areas under County jurisdiction and into incorporated cities.

 

Even though the original TDR program has been eliminated, the 2009 County Comprehensive Plan calls for investigation of other ways of using the TDR tool. Administrator Loosli mentioned that the County may consider a technique in which new gravel pits can only be approved in conjunction with the remediation of abandoned gravel pits.