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Wareham, Massachusetts

The Town of Wareham, population 22,000, lies 50 miles south of Boston, just across Buzzards Bay from Cape Cod. It has 54 miles of coastline with beaches, bays, estuaries, ponds and rivers. Despite its location, much or the Town remains undeveloped in woodlands and agriculture, particularly cranberry bogs. In April, 2014, the voters of Wareham passed a TDR bylaw by Town Meeting designed to preserve open space, historical features and environmental resources.

Sending parcels must be at least five acres in size and located in the R-30, MR-30, R-43, R-60, R-130 and Strip Commercial zones, which appear to comprise over half of the Town’s total land area. Sending sites must also contain the following: low density uses, designated resource areas, habitat for endangered species, visual prominence, historical significance, recreational value or protection for groundwater, surface water or other natural resources.

The number of TDRs available to a sending site is determined by first calculating the net usable land area (NULA) by subtracting from gross acreage all developed land as well as land occupied by wetlands, bogs, streams, rivers, water bodies, water buffer zones and the 100-year floodplain. Available TDRs are determined by dividing the area of land in the NULA by the minimum lot size requirement of the site’s zoning. The transfer ratio is one to one: one bonus dwelling is permitted on the receiving site for each potential dwelling prohibited on the sending site by permanent conservation easement. The sending site owner may retain fee ownership of the restricted property or convey title to the Town, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or a non-profit conservancy. However, the sending site owner does not receive and additional TDRs for conveying title.

Receiving sites must be zoned R-30, MR-30 R-43 and R-60 and served by public water. A site without public sewer can be approved as a receiving site if the on-site sewage treatment system meets design requirements for non-point source pollution. Baseline is the maximum density allowed by the underlying zoning. With TDR, receiving sites can achieve a maximum density of 12 units per acre for duplexes and other multiple-family residential structures or 8 units per acre of single-family residences using special single-family residential development regulations for minimum lot size, frontage, lot depth, setbacks, lot coverage and height.

The transfer is accomplished by a TDR special permit which allows the Planning Board to impose conditions needed to implement community goals including conditions that prevent the receiving site from achieving the maximum density theoretically available via TDR.

In November 2014, the A.D. Makepeace, reportedly the world’s biggest cranberry grower, the largest private landowner in eastern Massachusetts, and a well-known land developer, submitted the first TDR application to the Town. Makepeace proposes to transfer TDRs from a 149-acre sending area in an undeveloped part of Wareham to a receiving area that it also owns in a more developed part of the Town.