Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Cape Elizabeth, Maine, population 9,313 (2018), is located on the Atlantic coast seven miles south of Portland, Maine. In 1982, the Town adopted a TDR program designed to encourage the preservation of agriculture, water quality, natural areas, scenic views, greenbelts, and historic resources. In a 2015 amendment, the TDR ordinance added a Transfer of Development Rights Map and a transfer ratio.   

As of 2015, the mapped sending areas have one or more of the following attributes:

  • In agricultural use;
  • Identified as having greenbelt or recreational value;
  • Significant wildlife habitat;
  • Significant scenic, cultural, and/or unique properties.

The allocation ratio is one TDR per 64,000 square feet of sending site land placed under perpetual conservation easement. However, for each 64,000 square feet of land used for agriculture, 1.34 TDRs may be transferred. This bonus transfer ratio for active farmland was added as Sec. 19-7-3.F in the 2015 amendment.  

Potential receiving sites include parcels of at least five acres that are zoned Residence A and not mapped as sending areas. Densities can be increased at the ratio of one TDR per bonus dwelling unit up to maximum densities that vary depending on the location of the site, whether or not it has on-site sewage disposal versus public sewerage, and whether or not the sending and receiving sites are in the same ownership. For example, TDR can be used to increase the density of RA land with on-site sewage disposal from one lot per 80,000 square feet to one lot per 60,000 square feet if the receiving and sending sites are not in common ownership and located more than 2,000 feet apart. TDR receiving site developments must use the Town’s cluster subdivision provisions in accordance with Sec. 19-7-2, Open Space Zoning.   

Program Status

The 1982 program was hampered by the Town’s policy on extensions of the public sewerage system. Specifically, in three referendums, the Town’s voters expressed a position that the sewer system should be growth neutral. As a result, it was often difficult for parcels to qualify for connection to the sewer system; for example, sewer connections were limited based on a parcel’s road frontage rather than on the size of the parcel. In addition to contributing to the proliferation of septic systems, these policies made it difficult to obtain the sewer service connections needed for parcels to qualify as TDR receiving sites under the 1982 TDR ordinance. However, by the mid- 1990s, the Town had changed its sewer policies and sewer service is now available to more parcels. In addition, the 1997 TDR ordinance addressed this issue even more directly by allowing sites with on-site sewage disposal to qualify as receiving parcels. In 2005, Town Planner Maureen O’Meara reported that the TDR provisions had not been used. The bonus allocations for active farmland created by the 2015 code amendments may generate more interest in the TDR option.