Framingham, Massachusetts

The Town of Framingham, population 63,000, is located 20 miles west of Boston. Bisected by the Massachusetts Turnpike (Interstate 90), Framingham is under considerable growth pressure. Advocates for preservation of farmland and natural areas express concern that the Town’s remaining farms may be converted to development as their owners approach retirement age. In May 2015, the Town adopted a TDR program designed to preserve farmland and conservation areas while serving as an economic development tool.

Sending sites (called Giving Parcels in Framingham) are residentially zoned parcels known as Developable Farm Parcels and/or Developable Open Space Parcels that qualify for preservation via special permit. Sending site owners who choose to participate submit TDR Yield Plans to quantify the number of building lots that their properties can accommodate as a matter of right. Owners can choose to forego development of some or all of these potentially developable building lots. The preservation is permanently achieved by Agricultural Preservation Restrictions (APR) or Conservation Restrictions (CR) which prevent all future construction except barns and other farm-related structures on up to 5 percent of a site under an APR. All non-developable land must be preserved by the APR or CR as well as the foregone developable building sites.

The transferable development potential at the sending site is expressed as “Residential Building Size” which is the bonus floor area that a receiving site developer can obtain for each developable building lot foregone at a sending site. These ratios differ based on the sending site zoning as depicted in the following chart. The term “Residential Building Size” in this chart suggests that the transfers can only allow bonus residential floor area at a receiving site but I could not find any text to confirm that assumption.

Transfer of Development Rights Residential Building Size Chart

Giving Parcel Zoning District Residential Building Size
Single Family Residential (R-4) 6,500 square feet
Single Family Residential (R-3) 6,000 square feet
Single Family Residential (R-2) 5,500 square feet
Single Family Residential (R-1) 5,000 square feet
General Residential (G) 4,500 square feet

The receiving areas are properties within Chapter 43D Priority Development Sites. In 2013, Framingham adopted Chapter 43D under a state statue allowing municipalities to select eligible sites where development decisions must be rendered within 180 days of the submittal of a completed application. In Framingham, Chapter 43D sites must be zoned for commercial, industrial, residential or mixed-use development. One of at least four Chapter 43D sites is the Framingham Technology Park, home to firms like Staples, Genzyme and Bose, and credited with helping make Framingham a national technology hub.

Bonus floor area is transferred to receiving sites at a one-to-one ratio. The transferred floor area allows up to a 35 percent increase in building height or additional floors, up to a 15 percent increase in lot coverage and up to a 50 percent increase in floor area ratio. The receiving site must provide the additional parking required by this bonus floor area or create alternative transportation options such as public transportation or carpool incentives.

As of the writing of this profile in March 2016, the TDR program had not yet been used. At that time, farmland preservation advocates were urging an amendment to the bylaws allowing more sites to qualify as receiving areas.