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Hillsborough County, Florida

Hillsborough County, population 998,948 (2000), surrounds the City of Tampa, the county seat, and extends from the beaches of Tampa Bay to inland swamps. In the mid-1980s, the County adopted a TDR program with slightly different procedures depending on whether the sending and receiving sites are contiguous or non-contiguous. The program was designed to preserve farmland and environmentally sensitive areas.

Hillsborough County’s TDR program is designed to preserve farmland and environmentally-sensitive areas.

In the late 1990s, the County amended its TDR program, expanding its purpose to include the preservation of historic landmarks as well as farmland and environmentally sensitive areas. As reported in a February 2001 update, the County was considering further amendments of its TDR program in 2001.

The TDR ordinance adopted in the late 1990s continues to allow transfers between non-contiguous as well as contiguous parcels.

A Special Use Permit can authorize any development of contiguous lots that would be allowed if the lots were merged under one ownership or if the lot lines were differently located. This procedure is designed to provide flexibility as long as there are no adverse effects on the purpose of the regulations and as long as the effect on adjoining property would be the same as where regulation is applied on a lot-by-lot basis.

The procedure for non-contiguous parcels is designed to preserve environmentally sensitive areas, designated historic landmarks, farmland, farm worker housing and waterfront access. When the following standards are met, all or part of the development potential of two parcels can be transferred to one of the properties through the approval of a Special Use Permit.

  1. For transfers in farmland or environmentally sensitive areas, the two properties must be in the same zoning district or the transfer must be to the higher use district. A permanent open space easement must be recorded on the sending site.
  2. For transfers from historic sites, all or part of the density or floor area ratio allowed by the underlying land use category on the landmark parcels can be transferred to a receiving parcel designated for urban land uses and served by public sewer and water.
  3. Sending sites must retain development rights for the number of existing dwellings on the property. An undeveloped property must retain at least one development right if the property is eligible for a dwelling unit.

For farmland and environmentally sensitive properties, the total density or intensity for sending and receiving sites cannot exceed what would be permitted by the underlying zoning, a one-to-one transfer ratio. For historic sites, development of the receiving parcel may exceed the underlying zoning district limits by 50 percent. The applicant must submit a plan demonstrating that the proposed development conforms to zoning regulations to an equivalent or greater degree than if the lots were regulated on a lot-by-lot basis.

The Hillsborough County program offers potential compensation to property owners who want to preserve their sending sites or who may have difficulty developing a sending site for any number of reasons including environmental constraints, availability of infrastructure or simply site demand.

However, the ordinance does not provide some of the incentives typically found in the more successful TDR programs. For example, the transfer ratio for farmland and environmentally sensitive sites is one-to-one; the total amount of development on the sending and receiving sites after the transfer cannot exceed the total amount allowed prior to the transfer. Furthermore, the Board of County Commissioners must make written findings that the proposed transfer achieves the County’s land use goals to as great or greater extent than the application of the County’s land use regulations when applied to the individual properties involved.

In 1995, Steve Luce of the Hillsborough County Planning and Development Management Department, reported that there had been no transfers at that time. He noted that developers could typically achieve the density they want by clustering development rather than transferring.

In a February 2001 update, Shirley Gersholowitz, Manager of the Community Planning Section, stated that no transfers had yet occurred. Gersholowitz added that the County was in the process of considering amendments to its Land Development Code, including the section on TDR.

In 2005, Paula Harvey, Director of the Hillsborough County Planning & Growth Services Division reported that no transfers had occurred as of that date. In 2007, a study of the TDR program stated that the program still had not produced any transfers.