Arlington, Washington

Arlington, population 12,000 (2000) is located 41 miles north of Seattle. In 2003, Snohomish County, which surrounds Arlington, adopted a TDR framework to save the Stillaguamish Valley, a fertile agricultural area located west of the City of Arlington. According to the City’s web site, the citizens of Arlington understand the benefits of saving the Stillaguamish Valley as a beautiful gateway to the city as well as a source of food production/processing, habitat and recreation. Consequently, the City of Arlington amended its Land Use Code, adding a section on transfer of development rights (Chapter 20.37). This chapter provides receiving areas for an inter-jurisdictional transfer program in which development rights from preserved farmland in Snohomish County’s Stillaguamish Valley are transferred to receiving sites within the City of Arlington.

The City of Arlington’s TDR program is designed to save farmland under Snohomish County jurisdiction in the Stillaguamish Valley.

The sending area includes 3,000 acres within the Stillaguamish Valley, bordered by Interstate 5, Highway 9, the northern city limits of Arlington and the Stillaguamish River. Roughly 2,500 acres of this area qualify for the TDR program. The receiving area is known as Brekhus-Beach, a 337-acre area annexed into Arlington in 2007 with the intention of becoming the receiving area for this program. Concurrent with this annexation, Arlington, Snohomish County and a majority of the landowners of Brekhus-Beach agreed that TDR regulations would apply in this area as a condition of this area becoming part of the City of Arlington’s Urban Growth Area.

As described above, sending areas are those areas in the Stillaguamish Valley designated as sending areas by the Snohomish County Future Land Use Map, an element of the County’s comprehensive plan. County Code 30.35A.050 specifies the number of TDR certificates issued when sending area land is preserved in compliance with County standards (See Snohomish County profile.)

The 337-acre receiving area is governed by a TDR Overlay Zone adopted by the City in which development rights from land under County jurisdiction can be used pursuant to an Interlocal Agreement between the City and County. The number of TDR certificates required for development approvals is as follows.

Type of Development Number if Required TDR Certificates
Residential Subdivisions (single family) 25% of the number of lots included in the preliminary plat
All other residential development (multi-family) 50% of the number if residential units included in the official site plan
All nonresidential development 1 TDR Certificate per 10,000 square feet of gross floor area

This approach differs from that used in most TDR programs. Typically, developers are allowed to achieve baseline development with no TDR requirement but can exceed baseline and achieve maximum development when they buy TDRs for each bonus unit, meaning each dwelling unit that exceeds baseline. In contrast, in the Arlington program, all development in the receiving area is subject to a TDR requirement even if the developer chooses to build at a low density. The Arlington approach addresses a problem seen in some TDR programs in which developers can avoid TDR requirements entirely by simply building at or below baseline density.