Chestnuthill, Pennsylvania

The Township of Chestnuthill, population 14,418 (2000), lies 70 miles west of New York City in Monroe County, Pennsylvania.

In 2002, the Township adopted a transferable development rights ordinance designed to preserve prime farmland, sensitive natural areas and rural character.

Sending sites are identified on the Chestnuthill Township Official Map as having considerations for recreation, watershed protection, parkland, open space or agriculture. To qualify for transferable rights, at least 80 percent of a sending site must be restricted by conservation easement.  The easement designates Chestnuthill Township and a conservation organization acceptable to the Township as the beneficiaries. The conservation easement is permanent but the owner of the site can subsequently buy back development rights if the easement is rescinded through the agreement of all the easement beneficiaries.

The number of rights available for transfer is calculated by dividing the adjusted tract area by the minimum size requirement for a lot served by on-site septic within the zoning district of the subject parcel. (Adjusted tract area is gross acreage minus constrained land including wetlands, floodplains, steep slopes, rock outcrops, lakes and ponds.) The development rights are severed and transferred by a deed of transferable development rights which can be recorded simultaneously with but not before recordation of the conservation easement preserving the sending site. Transferable rights can be sold directly to a receiving area developer or to an intermediary, including the Township. Severed development rights do not expire while held by intermediaries unless they are legally extinguished.

Receiving sites cannot be located on properties that qualify to be sending sites. Receiving sites must be served by central water and sewer and must be located in the R-2, R-3, VC and RR districts. The R-1 district can also serve as a receiving area if the project meets three conditions: developed as a conservation subdivision; dwelling units restricted to persons 55 and older; and direct access to any of three state highways.

The base density in receiving sites is calculated by dividing the adjusted parcel area, as described above, by the minimum lot size for lots served by central water and sewer in the applicable zoning district. A multiplier of 1.25 dwelling units per development right occurs when these rights are used for senior housing. When transferred rights are used, minimum lot size is reduced to 7,500 square feet with additional special standards for lot width, street frontage, yards, impervious coverage and building height.