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Warrington, Pennsylvania

Warrington Township, population 23,418 (2010), lies in southern Bucks County, 20 miles north of Philadelphia. The Township’s 1980 Comprehensive Growth Management Plan proposed TDR as an implementation mechanism both to mitigate increased restrictions on potential sending sites and to encourage the development of receiving areas. In 1985, the Township implemented this proposal by amending its zoning ordinance to allow transfers of development rights from the Residential-Agricultural zone to zones which permit higher-density residential, office and industrial uses. The TDR provisions were amended in 1992, 1997 and 2000. In 2006, the Township adopted a Comprehensive Plan Update that called for an enhanced TDR program. In 2008, the Township made significant revisions to its TDR program. The process section below describes the program as it appeared in November 2011 in Chapter 27 Zoning, Part 4, Article A, Section 411.

Process

Warrington’s TDR program aims to preserve open space, trails, scenic vistas, agriculture, nurseries, forests, wetlands, floodplains, riparian buffers, natural wildlife areas, environmentally sensitive areas and historically significant sites.

Parcels of land zoned RA qualify as sending sites as a matter of right. In other zoning districts the owners must petition to qualify their land as sending sites through the conditional use permit process. The Township can approve a sending site if it meets four criteria including consistency with the Comprehensive Plan and promotion of the public welfare. Owners can restrict development on some or all of their property. However, if they intend to transfer only some of their TDRs, they must submit a survey delineating the portion of the site where development will be restricted. Under certain circumstances, landowners are responsible for reimbursing the Township for expenses incurred by the Township related to TDR administration.

Warrington’s code creates a TDR Review Board to advise the Planning Commission and Township Board of Supervisors on five TDR issues.

  • The TDR Review Board makes recommendations on proposals to allow receiving sites within the RA zoning district considering possible impact on resources, neighboring properties and consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.
  • It opines on the creation of development rights for certain parcels within the 500 year floodplain at an allocation ratio of one TDR per dwelling unit plus one TDR for every 8,500 square feet of land area restored to natural condition and dedicated to the Township. (As explained below, land in floodplains does not otherwise qualify as a sending area in Warrington.)
  • If substandard parcels are consolidated to create conforming parcels, TDRs can be granted at the rate of one TDR for each newly-conforming lot.
  • At least two TDRs are granted for the preservation of a historic structure and the TDR Review Board can recommend additional TDRs based on the size of the landmark parcel and the significance of its natural resources.
  • The TDR Review Board may recommend an allocation of up to 25 percent bonus TDRs to sending sites that provide enhanced public benefits including multiple natural resource components, public access and adjacency to other preserved properties.

TDR allocation varies depending on sending site zoning: for each net acre of sending site land, owners can receive 0.65 DUs in the RA zone, 1.1 in the R-1, 1 DU in the R-1-C, 2 DUs in the R-2 or R2-I and 1.9 DUs in the R-3. In addition to this base allocation, sending sites can receiving incentive bonuses of 15% in the RA or 10% in other districts and additional bonuses for sites with historic or natural resource significance. RA sites must be at least five acres in size to qualify. Warrington excludes already-restricted areas from TDR allocation ratios and distinguishes between wetlands, floodplains and contaminated lands (where TDRs cannot be allocated) versus woodlands, steep slopes and riparian buffers, (where TDRs can be allocated.) In addition, the ordinance includes TDR allocations created by stipulated agreements involving specific properties as mentioned in the Program Status section below.

Receiving site projects that use TDRs for residential density bonus get one bonus dwelling unit for each TDR. The TDR ordinance specifies dimension requirements for lots, yards, coverage, building height and open space pertaining to TDR receiving projects in each of the six zoning districts with potential for residential-bonus TDR receiving sites. The maximum with-TDR density ranges from 1.3 units per acre in the RA to 3.0 units per acre in the R-3.

Warrington also allows receiving area projects using TDR to employ alternative standards for non-residential development in 11 zones. Some of these TDR-only standards apply in all 11 zones, including those for buffer yards, landscaping and up to a 20 percent reduction in required parking supported by a study prepared by a traffic engineer. In contrast, certain TDR-only standards only apply in certain zones. For example, in the PI-1 district, one TDR allows 10,000 square feet of additional pavement coverage or various combinations of pavement and building coverage. If development of TDR receiving projects renders a site impractical for meeting on-site open space requirements, the code allows developers to pay a fee in lieu of land to the Parks and Recreation Board to be applied toward the acquisition and development of public parkland accessible to the development.

Program Status

In a June 2001 update, former Warrington Township Planning Commissioner Glenn McKay reported that an informal TDR program had evolved in Warrington at that time as a result of a stipulated agreement over a land use dispute. In this informal program, 199 TDRs were created for possible use in several potential receiving districts. As seen in the 2011 version of the TDR ordinance, these TDRs are now incorporated within Warrington’s official TDR program.

In November 2011, Roy Rieder, Director of Planning & Development, reported that Warrington Township was processing a sending site application at that time.