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Windsor, Connecticut

The profile of the TDR program in Windsor, Connecticut that appears in Beyond Takings and Givings is presented in its entirety beginning in the next paragraph of this profile. This update simply reports that revisions to Windsor’s TDR code provisions became effective in December 2008. The new code provisions use a new TDR allocation formula expected to make the program more attractive to potential users.

Windsor uses TDR to preserve farmland, scenic areas, environmentally-sensitive land and potential parkland.

BACKGROUND

The Town of Windsor, population 28,000, is located on the west bank of the Connecticut River, seven miles north of Hartford in central Connecticut. In 1976, Windsor adopted a transfer of residential density program which allows flexibility in residential density in order to ensure that residential development is appropriately located in relation to transportation, community facilities and other services. In 1993, the Town also created a separate non-residential TDR program in an effort to preserve land with historic, ecologic, aesthetic, agricultural or recreational resources.

PROCESS

The residential TDR program allows density to be transferred between all residential zones, the agricultural zone and Design Development areas. Sending areas are not pre-designated. An applicant proposes a property as a sending site. The Town Planning Commission must find that the proposed sending site is developable, that the number of units proposed for transfer is the number of units permitted by the underlying zoning and that it would be more desirable to develop these units at the proposed receiving site rather than the sending site. Since wetland areas are not considered developable, the sending site development potential is typically determined by the density allowed by zoning. If the transfer is approved, the sending site must be dedicated to the Town.

To approve the proposed receiving site, the Planning Commission must find that the site can accommodate the additional density with minimal adverse impact on adjacent properties. The proposed project must also locate the additional density in a way that makes greatest advantage of proximity to transportation and other facilities without overwhelming these facilities. The density allowed on the receiving site cannot exceed the number of units allowed by the underlying zoning plus the number of transferred units.

Some extra criteria must be met under the residential TDR program. For example, there are maximum limits on the final density of the receiving site: in single family residential and agricultural zones, the density cannot be more than twice the underlying zone density, a density bonus of 100 percent. In Design Development zones, up to five additional units per acre are allowed. The receiving site can be approved by the Planning Commission for any combination of single-family detached dwellings, semi-attached dwellings or multiple-family dwellings. In addition, the Commission must find that the development which would result from the proposed transfer is preferable to conventional development.

As explained above, the purpose of the non-residential TDR program is to preserve land with historic, ecologic, aesthetic, agricultural or recreational resources. As with the residential program, sending and receiving sites are not pre-designated. Applicants can propose transfers of coverage between any parcels within any non-residential zones. In its findings, the Planning Commission must consider the existing or potential value of the proposed sending site for historic preservation, as a nature preserve, as an aesthetic asset, as open space, as a recreational amenity or as agricultural land. The Commission must also consider the accessibility of the proposed sending site if it is to be used for recreation or cultural activities. Following a transfer, the sending site must be dedicated to the Town or to another grantee acceptable to the Town such as the State of Connecticut, a land trust, a wildlife association or other non-profit organization.

Under the non-residential program, the Town allows the transfer of coverage, meaning the maximum area covered by roofs and paving. The amount of coverage which can be transferred cannot exceed 50 percent of the total area of the sending parcel; 50 percent is the maximum percent of coverage allowed on any non-residential lot. The transferred coverage plus the coverage originally allowed cannot exceed 67 percent of the receiving parcel. The Planning Commission may grant waivers from certain design requirements to allow for the full use of the transferred coverage. In approving a transfer, the Planning Commission must find that the benefits of the transfer will outweigh any adverse effects which might result from the increased density allowed on the receiving site. The Commission must also consider in its findings whether the proposed transfer is preferable to conventional development of the sending and receiving sites.

PROGRAM STATUS

Windsor received one application for TDR. In this case, the applicant proposed to dedicate 81 acres of land near the Farmington River in northern Windsor. This dedication would have expanded the Town’s 500-acre Northwest Park. Staff supported the idea but the Town’s Economic Development Commission recommended denial because the proposed receiving area was in an industrial zone; the Economic Development Commission argued that the proposal would be a detrimental reduction in the Township’s inventory of industrial land. The proposed transfer was ultimately denied although about 20 acres of land was dedicated for parkland when the remainder of the proposed sending site was subdivided for single-family homes. According to Town Planner Mario Zavarella, the Town has since realized that there is actually too much land zoned for industrial purposes since industrial land has generally been developed in office complexes which generate more peak-hour traffic, absorbing the capacity of the transportation system.

After the denial described above, no other TDR applications were submitted in Windsor. Town Planner Zavarella speculates that the disapproval of the first application had a chilling effect on future proposals incorporating TDR. However, the lack of activity might also be due, at least in part, to the one-to-one transfer ratio. When the program was originally developed, a one-to-one transfer ratio was considered sufficient because the sending sites were assumed to be in non-urbanized areas where the property owners would be interested in saving the costs of providing streets, sewers and other infrastructure. However, since this pattern did not evolve, it is also possible that the one-to-one ratio provides insufficient motivation to generate transfers. In addition, property owners have alternative methods of increasing density, including a mechanism which offers additional density to subdivisions which cluster development on smaller lots while dedicating much of the parcel as open space.

In an April 2001 update, Mario Zavarella, Town Planner, reports that the Town has been more successful with the non-residential TDR program. Under this program, the Town received almost 13 acres of open space land in critical locations. One sending site is a 4.5-acre parcel of land along the Connecticut River that the Town will use for future river front walking trails and other recreation. In return for this transfer, the owners of an existing industry were allowed to exceed the baseline limits on a receiving site. The other sending sites are in the Industrial/Corporate area. One is at the intersection of two major arterial roadways and will serve as a 3.5-acre park. The other two parcels (1.7 and 3.2 acres) are adjacent to a railroad line that is intended for future mass transit use between the City of Hartford and Bradley International Airport. These parcels may provide sites for a future transit station.