Arlington County, Virginia

Arlington County, population 207,627 (2010), lies across the Potomac River from Washington DC. In 2005, the State of Virginia granted Arlington County authority to adopt a TDR ordinance. One year later, the County adopted a TDR ordinance aimed at historic preservation, open space protection, community facilities, recreation and affordable housing. The 2006 ordinance was short on details, basically stating that the County Board could shift development from sending sites to receiving site using the site plan approval process. The ordinance is extremely flexible, allowing the County Board to determine whether the bonus density is appropriate and whether the transfer is consistent with the Zoning Ordinance, approved land use policies/plans and the public health, safety and welfare.

In adopting this code section, the County acknowledged that it would have to provide some guidelines to actually use the program. In 2008, the County Board adopted Policy Guidance for Transfer of Development Rights. The guidelines clarify that deed restrictions must be recorded on both the sending and receiving sites and that the density transferred is typically the unused by-right density of the sending site. The guidelines allow the following conversions: a single-family home or townhouse equals 3,000 square feet or non-residential floor area and a multi-family apartment unit equals 1,500 square feet of non-residential floor area.

The guidelines noted that the general TDR provisions could be overridden by TDR components adopted in area or sector plans such as the Clarendon area, in which special TDR provisions are provided in the C-3 and Unified Commercial/Mixed Use Development zones. For example, receiving sites in the Clarendon can only accept TDRs from sending sites in the Clarendon. TDR can be used to exceed maximum building in certain parts of this district (as opposed to the rest of Arlington, where receiving sites must still adhere to maximum height limits despite the bonus density transferred to the site).