Carroll County, Maryland

Carroll County, population 167,134 (2010), is located 25 miles northwest of Baltimore and borders the State of Pennsylvania. Within the County, the Town of Windsor and the Village of Linwood are recognized as historically important. In addition, the County contains various mineral deposits including Wakefield Marble, an aggregate that is crushed and used to make building materials. There are three quarries and a cement manufacturer in Carroll County. However, even though mineral extraction was recognized as important to the local economy, land use conflicts over resource recovery activities left quarry companies uncertain about whether or not to make long-term investments in the early 1990s.

In 1992, Carroll County adopted a Mineral Resources Plan designed to achieve several objectives. The Plan sought to minimize the adverse impact of mineral resource recovery activities on surrounding land uses and the environment in general. It also attempted to assure that disturbed land would be reclaimed to an environmentally sensitive and aesthetically pleasing condition. And, with the help of TDR, the Plan sought to protect important mineral resources from urban development. The ordinance was amended in 2009 and 2010 but the changes appear to be primarily organizational with the exception of the addition of public uses as a permitted use in the MR zone. Consequently, the rest of this profile duplicates the case study that appeared in the 2003 book Beyond Takings and Givings. 


Sending sites are in areas with an overlay zoning designation of VRA, Viable Resource Area. A Viable Resource Area is underlain by a potentially recoverable mineral resource. New residential lots cannot be created in the VRA. Owners of land with the VRA overlay can cluster new lots on portions of the same property that do not have the VRA overlay. However, if clustering is not possible, the County allows these owners to transfer development rights. The Planning Commission determines the base number of development rights permitted on the sending site using the density allowed by the underlying zoning. This number multiplied by two establishes the number of TDRs available for transfer. This constitutes a two-to-one transfer ratio. Each approved development right is assigned a serial number. Before these rights can be transferred, the sending site owner must record a Transfer Development Rights Easement that permanently prevents residential development on the property.

The development rights can be transferred to property in the Agricultural District. The density allowed in the Agricultural District without TDR depends on the size of the parcel; larger parcels can be subdivided to one lot per 20 acres. However, one additional lot is allowed for each TDR purchased up to a maximum of one unit per 10 acres. TDRs can also be used on property zoned R-40,000, R-20,000 or R-10,000 that are being subdivided under cluster subdivision provisions. A cluster subdivision receiving TDRs may increase density at two TDRs for every ten lots allowed when TDR is not used.

A Deed of Transfer must be recorded when development rights are transferred. When TDRs  are ultimately used in a receiving site project, a Transfer of Development Rights  Extinguishment must also be recorded.

Program Status

The profile in Beyond Takings and Givings reported that the TDR provisions had been used once, permanently preserving an 80-acre parcel. A 2010 map of all County easements indicates no additional use of the TDR program since 2003.