Delray Beach, Florida

The City of Delray Beach, population 60,522 (2010), is located on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, 50 miles north of Miami. In 1990, the City adopted a TDR program as part of a comprehensive package of land development regulations. The stated goal of the TDR program is to preserve historic landmarks, protect conservation areas, provide land for public facilities or to implement any of the goals, policies and programs of the City’s Comprehensive Plan. However, the City is almost completely developed. Consequently, despite the wide scope of the ordinance, TDR is primarily considered as a tool to promote historic preservation. In November of 2011, the TDR provisions remain in the code unchanged. Consequently, the remainder of this profile is identical to the case study that appeared in Beyond Takings and Givings, published in 2003.


An application for TDR is processed as a rezoning request. Either the property owners or the City may initiate the rezoning process. The applicant applies to rezone the sending site to the Community Facilities, Open Space or Conservation zone, whichever is appropriate. If it is necessary to rezone the receiving site in order to allow the development that is proposed to be transferred, that rezoning is also processed concurrently. Conversely, the rezoning of the receiving site is not needed if the zoning of that site allows the proposed development.

At the start of the process, the applicant submits a site plan for the proposed sending site indicating the amount of development which could be accommodated on that site assuming compliance with all development regulations; the amount of development indicated on this site plan is used to determine the value of the development rights to be severed from the sending site. The code allows office floor area to be converted to residential units, and from residential to office, at the rate of 2,000 square feet equaling one dwelling unit.

After the sending site has been rezoned, the owner receives a Certificate of Development Rights which states the value of the transferred rights in terms of dwelling units or square feet of office floor area. The Certificate can be sold or transferred to a receiving site subject to various regulations.

Eligible receiving sites include redevelopment areas and height overlay zones. If a redevelopment project area is a receiving site, the development proposed for that site must comply with the redevelopment plan for that area. The City’s code allows land within height overlay zones to receive additional development intensity up to the value of the TDR Certificate. The only other way that land within a height overlay zone can receive additional intensity is when the height of a building in a height overlay zone is increased from 48 to 60 feet in order to accommodate residential units on the top floor of the structure.

Program Status

To date, no one has submitted a TDR application under the Delray Beach program. The TDR ordinance has no specified density bonus ratio to encourage transfers. In addition, the City offers up to a ten percent density bonus in redevelopment project areas and for projects which qualify for special code exceptions; since these bonuses are available to non-TDR projects, TDR is not needed to achieve even this modest increase in density.

Most importantly, the owners of historic properties are more interested in adaptive reuse than transfer of density. These historic properties are often residential structures in residential areas. Some zones in Delray Beach allow these residential structures to be converted to more economically-viable uses such as bed-and-breakfast lodgings and professional offices. In one area, the Old School Square Historic Arts District, a special zoning classification encourages adaptive reuse and the mixing of various land uses. Consequently, the property owners targeted by the TDR ordinance appear to be satisfied with other mechanisms which achieve the goal of historic preservation.

In December 1998, Diane Dominguez, Director of Planning and Zoning reported that there were no changes in the ordinance and no transfers. Paul Dorling, the new Director, gave a similar report in February 2001.