Douglass Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania

Douglass Township, population 3,300, is located in Berks County roughly 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia. Berks County is a national leader in farmland preservation, with 65,118 acres in 645 farms permanently preserved as of 2012; Douglass Township alone has 2,263 acres enrolled in Agricultural Security Areas involving 13 farms (Pennsylvania, 2013). To accelerate implementation of its preservation goals, Douglass Township adopted a TDR code section designed to preserve prime farmland, natural areas and scenic open space.

Sending sites must be at least 20 acres in size and zoned RC-Rural Conservation. To determine the number of TDRs available on a given site, land currently within rights of way, precluded from development by prior easements or within 100-year floodplains is deducted from gross acreage as well as 30 percent of the acreage with hydric soils and 75 percent of the acreage with slopes greater than 25 percent. The resulting net acreage is then multiplied by 0.33 to determine the number of TDRs available for severance.

Sending site landowners are issued TDRs following the recording of a covenant or conservation easement. These owners can sever none, some or all or their TDRs; however, if owners who choose to retain some TDRs on site must submit a plan indicating where development will be precluded and where development potential will be retained. Once severed, TDRs can be conveyed to anyone and can be retired, held or transferred for use on receiving sites.

In seven districts, TDR can be used for age-restricted residential developments. At least 20 TDRs must be used when developers choose to participate. When developers choose to use TDR for bonus density, one TDR allows two bonus age restricted units, allowing density to increase from three to four units per acre. Developers may also use TDRs to gain extra building coverage, impervious surface coverage and structure height in eligible age-restricted residential developments. For example, each TDR allows 3,000 extra square feet of building coverage or 5,000 extra square feet of impervious surface coverage. Baselines and maximum limits when TDR is used differ depending on the zoning of the receiving site. For example, in the VC zone, the use of TDR allows building coverage to exceed a baseline of 20 percent and achieve a maximum of 30 percent, allows impervious surface coverage to exceed 40 percent and achieve a maximum of 60 percent, and allows building height to exceed 35 feet and achieve a maximum of 45 feet.

Pennsylvania (2013) Bureau of Farmland Preservation 2012 Annual Report Act 149 of 1988. Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. May 2013.