Carver, Massachusetts

The Town of Carver, population 11,368, is located 40 miles southeast of Boston and 40 miles east of Providence, Rhode Island. Carver’s wetlands are well known for cranberry production. In 2004, Carver adopted a TDR bylaw to preserve low density land uses, farmland, open space, historic landmarks and critical environmental resources. The sending and receiving areas are designated on TDR overlay maps. Transfers are approved through a two-phase special permit process in which phase one is the determination of sending area development rights and phase two is approval of the receiving area development plan.

Applicants file a hypothetical plan for a sending site demonstrating the number of dwelling units that the parcel could support without waivers of any regulations. The TDRs available at the sending site is the number of dwelling units depicted on this plan multiplied by 1.5. During this phase, the Planning Board must document its evaluation of the importance of the proposed site in terms of scenic value, ecological significance, productive farmland, recreational opportunity and watershed protection. If the Planning Board finds that the site is of “particularly significant importance”, it can multiply the number of dwelling units indicated in the hypothetical plan by 2.0 instead of 1.5. Examples of particularly significant importance include sites that protect public drinking water resources, preserve habitat for endangered species or contain noteworthy historical significance.

If the applicant wants to proceed, a permanent conservation easement is recorded on the sending site prior to the issuance of any building permits for construction at the receiving site. The recorded document must prohibit in perpetuity all new development and the expansion of any existing structure on the sending site. The applicant is responsible for providing all information necessary for the Town Assessor to value, assess and tax the sending and receiving parcels as enhanced or diminished by TDRs.

Generally, receiving sites must be between ten and 60 acres in size. After a determination of the number of TDRs available at the sending site, an applicant submits two plans for the proposed receiving site. A Net Useable Land Area or NULA plan is submitted to determine base density. A NULA plan is prepared by subtracting water, wetlands, marshes, bogs and buffer zones from gross acreage. The remaining acreage is NULA. This number is multiplied by six to determine the base number of dwelling units allowed on the site. Base units plus transferred TDRs yields the maximum number of units allowed on the receiving site. (TDRs used for affordable housing are multiplied by 1.5 and TDRs used for age-restricted affordable housing are multiplied by 2.0.)

In addition to the increased density provided by the transferred rights, the receiving area development plan can take advantage of special dimensional standards in the TDR code section. The Planning Board can also modify the parking requirements for age-restricted units.

In considering the application for a receiving site development, the Planning Board must determine whether the transfer’s benefits outweigh its detrimental impacts to the site, the surrounding neighborhood and the Town as a whole. In addition, the Board must make a positive finding on each of the following criteria.

  • The development complies with Carver plans.
  • The development preserves natural areas, habitat, groundwater and other natural resources.
  • The development provides adequate water and sanitary services.
  • The development is appropriately sited.
  • The development is well integrated into villages or planned neighborhood developments.
  • Traffic from the development can be accommodated by the transportation system.
  • The development’s circulation system is well designed.