Frederick County, population 240,000, lies immediately north of Montgomery County, roughly 40 miles north of Washington, D.C. Despite its location within the Boston-Washington megalopolis, Frederick County still retains over 200,000 acres of farmland which generate over $100 million in market value of agricultural products.
On November 18, 2014, Frederick County adopted a TDR program known as the Agricultural Rights Transfer Option (ARTO) aimed at supplementing ongoing agricultural preservation programs by allowing owners of agriculturally-zoned land to transfer development potential to other sites also zoned Agricultural.
To qualify as sending sites, parcels must be zoned Agricultural, be at least 50 acres in size, be located in the Tier IV Area as defined in the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012 and have more than one Agricultural subdivision right. In the Agricultural District, an owner can create one lot of at least 40,000 square feet from an original parcel; additional land divisions can only occur if the parcel is rezoned to another zoning district. Alternatively, under Section 1-19-7.300C, owners of land in the Agricultural District may choose a cluster option in which more lots can be created but the land is prohibited from further subdivision – not be easement but by placement of the following statement on the plat: “The land lies within an approved agricultural cluster development and no further subdivision of the remaining land is permitted unless the property is placed in another zone or further subdivision is allowed by ordinance or regulation of the Board of County Commissioners.”
Owners interested in selling TDRs record a deed of easement that allows the transfer of one or more development rights from a sending site. At least one development right must be retained with each sending parcel.
To qualify as receiving sites, parcels must be zoned Agricultural in the Tier IV Areas but not be designated as a Priority Preservation Area or a Rural Legacy Area. When the cluster option explained above is used to calculate the number of TDRs transferred from a sending site, the receiving site must also use the cluster option. When both the sending and receiving sites are used for agricultural activities as defined by the State of Maryland, sending sites are limited to transferring no more than seven TDRs and receiving sites can only be subdivided to achieve a total of up to 15 lots. The maximum density achievable using TDR is one dwelling unit per two gross acres.