Frederick County, population 78,305 (2010), lies 80 miles west of Washington, DC and features scenic valleys and ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. Almost 90 percent of the County’s land area is still considered rural but the County is concerned about residential development in rural areas, which converted 12,500 acres of rural land since 2000. In April 2010, Frederick County adopted a TDR ordinance designed to encourage the voluntary preservation of farmland, forests, rural open space, natural areas and scenic resources.
Sending sites must be located outside the Urban Development Area (UDA) and development rights can only be transferred if that action provides public benefit and serves a public purpose as determined by meeting all of five criteria including designation as Rural in the Comp Plan, classified as Rural Area in the zoning code, depicted as a sending area on the Sending Area Map, qualified for subdivision and at least 20 acres in size. Sending site owners can choose to transfer any number of development rights from their land; however at least one development right must remain on a sending site and, for larger parcels, one TDR for every 100 acres of sending site land.
To calculate the development rights available for transfer from a sending site, Frederick County deducts all submerged land, floodplains and steep slopes as well as land already restricted by prior TDR transfers and other easements. One TDR can be transferred from the remainder for every five acres of land zoned RA sending site land except, again, at least one development right must remain on a sending site and, for larger parcels, one TDR must be retained for every 100 acres of sending site land.
Receiving areas must meet six criteria including RP (Residential Performance, R4 (Residential Planned Community) or RA (Rural Area) zoning, depiction on the Receiving Areas Map, served by roads, public sewer and public water, located within the UDA and identified in the Comp Plan for residential uses. Receiving areas cannot be located within the airport support area and development of receiving areas cannot adversely impact historic resources or sensitive natural areas. The baselines and maximum densities available through TDR vary depending on the zoning and size of the receiving site. For example, in the RA zone, a receiving site of any size within a designated rural community center can increase from a baseline of one unit per five acres to one unit per acre. On a receiving site less than ten acres zoned RP, TDR allows developments to exceed a baseline of 10 units per acre and achieve a maximum density of 15 units per acre. On receiving sites larger than 100 acres zoned R4, TDR allows development to exceed a baseline of 4 units per acre and achieve a maximum density of 6 units per acre.
Transfer ratios also apply based on which of three sending areas the TDRs come from. In sending area #1, consisting of 6,816 acres of agricultural land in dozens of non-contiguous parcels, two bonus dwelling units are allowed in receiving sites for each TDR severed from a sending site. In sending area #2, a limestone carbonate bedrock valley with 25,096 acres, 1.5 bonus dwelling units are allowed at receiving sites for each TDR transferred from a sending site. In sending area #3, a contiguous 71,781-acre shale/sandstone area, the transfer ratio is one-to-one.
As a first step in the process, sending area property owners submit an application and County planning staff issue a TDR Letter of Intent, if the parcel is determined to be eligible as a sending site, with a calculation of the number of rights available for transfer. If the sending site owners choose to proceed, development restrictions are recorded on the sending site and County staff issues a TDR Certificate to the sending site owner documenting the TDRs created by those restrictions. When the receiving site project is approved, the TDRs are transferred and extinguished and notations on the use of TDR are included on the final plats of the receiving properties.