Acton, Massachusetts

The Town of Acton, population 21,924 (2010) is located in Middlesex County, 21 miles west/northwest of Boston. Section 5.4 of Acton’s zoning bylaws establish a TDR program designed largely to redirect development from a congested highway corridor into mixed-use village centers.

Specifically, this code section is aimed at five goals: encourage compact communities, discourage excessive development in the Great Road corridor and thereby reduce the need for infrastructure expansion, conserve public funds by concentrating development where it can be economically served, balance tax revenues, and provide a means of compensating property owners for reductions in long-term development potential.

Sending areas to include all parcels in the Limited Business district and residentially zoned properties fronting the Great Road (with some exceptions.) Providing some additional motivation to use the TDR option, these properties cannot supply more than one parking space per 3,000 square feet of developable site area. Some sending area properties now zoned residential were previously zoned for non-residential development; owners of these properties can transfer unused non-residential as well as residential rights. Sending area property owners can transfer some or all of their development rights. The TDR program aims to achieve a floor area ratio of 0.10 in the Limited Business district.

Receiving properties include land within two village districts. The transfer ratio is one-to-one however 1,000 square feet of non-residential floor area transferred from a sending site can be converted to one bonus residential dwelling unit on a receiving site. Residential rights transferred from a sending site may not be converted to bonus non-residential floor area.

The TDR program aims to achieve a floor area ratio of 0.30 in the Receiving Districts. On an individual lot in a Receiving District, non-residential FAR is limited to a 25 percent increase, and residential density is limited to a 40 percent increase using TDR. Receiving site developments that use the TDR option must also be mixed-use projects with at least 25 percent residential or 25 percent per non-residential.

The owners of the sending and receiving sites make joint application for a transfer. Applications for transfer are processed under the Town’s Special Permit process. Under this mechanism, the Town Board must consider whether the transfer meets the general goals of the TDR program and whether the density proposed for receiving sites is compatible with surrounding uses and likely to create a sense of community, a variety of uses, and an attractive, viable village center.