The City of El Paso, population 649,121 (2010), is located in the far western corner of Texas across the Rio Grande River from Juarez, Mexico, which forms an international metro area reported to be home to more than 2 million people. Known for military bases, colleges and medical centers, El Paso has experienced steady growth since World War II. To protect environmentally sensitive areas, the City adopted TDR provisions in 2007, Code Section 20.10.695, which permits transfers of development rights using a special permit process.
Applicants seeking to designate a sending site can provide existing documentation to qualify a property as having one of the following indices of environmental sensitivity:
- Natural features
- Open space and aesthetics
- Natural resources
- Habitat of listed species
- Aquifer recharge and discharge
- Archeological sites
- Water bodies and arroyos
- Other areas that contribute to ecological integrity, balance or character.
In addition to existing documentation, sites can qualify based on an evaluation by the City Engineer and Director of Environmental Services. A registered professional engineer must certify that the sending site is capable of accommodating the density permitted by the site’s zoning district.
Property owners who choose the TDR option, must record a conservation easement that precludes all development on the sending site. One TDR is issued for each foregone dwelling unit allowed by the sending site’s zoning. The TDR program does not increase the cumulative density possible in the sending and receiving sites: for each dwelling unit foregone at the sending area, no more than one additional unit can be allowed at a receiving site.
Potential receiving sites include parcels in the S-D (Special Development), U-P (Union Plaza), PR-I (Planned Residential I), PR-II (Planned Residential II), RMU (Residential Mixed Use) and GMU (General Mixed Use) districts. Special permit approval for the bonus density occurs upon recordation of the conservation easement on the sending site. The special permit must include findings that the transfer promotes the purposes of the program and the City Council is authorized to impose additional conditions needed to protect public health, safety and welfare.