Beaufort County, South Carolina

Beaufort County, population 162,233 (2010), is home to the historic City of Beaufort as well as Parris Island Marine Recruit Depot and the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort. Both the U.S. Department of Defense and Beaufort County would like to reduce development potential within the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ), a quarter-mile buffer area surrounding MCAS Beaufort. Prior to adoption of the TDR ordinance, the County adopted an AICUZ overlay which reduced development potential in this buffer area. In 2011, the County adopted a TDR program designed to encourage the voluntary redirection of growth away from the AICUZ and into receiving areas identified as appropriate for growth consistent with the Beaufort County Comprehensive Plan.

The sending areas are parcels zoned rural (R), rural residential (RR), rural transitional overlay (R-TO), rural residential transitional overlay (RR-TO) or suburban (S) that lie within the MCAS Beaufort AICUZ. The number of TDRs available to a sending site is based on that parcel’s development potential prior to the development limitations imposed by the AICUZ overlay. Sending area property owners who choose to participate have the option of foregoing one, some or all of their development rights. The owner cannot transfer a TDR for any existing residence or any future dwelling that the owner may wish to build in the future.

When owners record permanent easements on sending parcels, the County issues TDR certificates that include a serial number for each TDR. TDRs may be sold to intermediaries as well as directly to receiving area developers. After each transaction, the County issues new certificates to document the new ownership of the TDRs. The ordinance requires the County to operate a web page showing all TDRs available for transfer as well as all transactions. At any time prior to the sale of a sending area property, an owner who has not transferred a TDR may surrender the TDR certificate and have its development potential restored.

The receiving areas are lands under the jurisdiction of Beaufort County on Port Royal Island although the cities of Beaufort and Port Royal may also participate under the provisions of an inter-jurisdictional agreement. Any rezoning that increases residential density or commercial intensity potential also creates an overlay district in which developers must comply with TDR requirements if they choose to exceed baseline density or intensity. Baseline is the maximum density/intensity allowed under the prior zoning.

When receiving area developers choose to exceed baseline, they must comply with TDR requirements by retiring one TDR for each three bonus dwelling units or every 5,000 square feet of non-residential floor area in excess of baseline.

Developers also have the option of paying cash in lieu of each TDR that would otherwise be required according to an amount in the County’s fee schedule. The County Council can change the cash in lieu payment amount based on the planning director’s recommendations in the annual TDR report which documents changes in the assessed value of sending area land, actual TDR sales figures and general real estate trends. The proceeds of cash in lieu payments must be used exclusively to buy TDRs and pay for TDR program administration. If the County runs out of sending area landowners willing to sell their TDRs for full market value, the County can elect to create additional sending areas. Cash in lieu proceeds may be spent directly by the County or conveyed to a TDR bank for use under the provisions of an agreement with the bank.

Affordable housing units are not counted when calculating the number of dwellings in excess of baseline. The ordinance also exempts from TDR requirements 250 square feet of commercial floor area per unit in traditional neighborhood developments. Industrial development is not subject to TDR requirements.

The ordinance allows the County to use an outside agency as a TDR bank and to assist with whatever administrative duties it may want to assign. The formation of a bank would not preclude private TDR transactions. When buying TDRs, the bank is obligated to give priority to owners with only one TDR before buying TDRs from larger parcels. The County has already received $250,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense to jumpstart the TDR program.