Harford County, Maryland

Harford County, population 244,826 (2010), is located 15 miles northeast of Baltimore, just south of the Pennsylvania border. The County actively promotes several optional agricultural preservation programs. As of 2005, there were 37,634 acres of farmland preserved by three state PDR programs and the County PDR program. The County’s original TDR program confined transfers to parcels zoned Agriculture and within 500 feet of one another. In 2003, the code was amended to allow the sending and receiving parcels to be one-half mile apart and limiting the density bonus allowed via TDR on receiving sites to a 50-percent increase over baseline density. In 2008, the code was changed extensively, creating the program described below.


The code provisions in force in 2011 retain the ability to transfer development rights between parcels zoned AG (Agriculture) that are within one-half mile of each other. Section 267-53(D)(3) allows one development right for a parcel between 20,000 square feet and 11 acres in size, two lots for parcels between 11 and 19.99 acres in size and an additional lot for each ten acres in excess of 20 acres. Up to 20 percent of the development rights available to a parcel as of February 8, 1977 are transferable. One development right must be retained for each existing dwelling unit and at least one development right must remain on each parcel. Transfer of TDRs can increase the receiving site development potential no more than 50 percent. Once a parcel becomes a sending site, it cannot be used as a receiving site.

The current (2011) code also offers a second transfer process. The sending areas are parcels that are both zoned AG and designated as agriculture by the current Land use Map. Instead of the 20-percent limitation imposed by the method described above, under this second option all development rights can be transferred from qualified sending sites with the exception of one right per existing dwelling and at least one right per parcel. The receiving sites must be designated as rural residential or rural village in the current Land Use Plan. These residential designations cannot be placed on land identified as Priority Preservation Areas in the current Priority Area Preservation Plan. Parcels so designated may be rezoned to the Rural Residential (RR) or Village Residential (VR) zones but, per Section 267-13H, developments can only use the higher density and other development standards offered in these zones by transferring TDRs at a 1:2 ratio. Maximum density in the RR is one unit per two acres with a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet for lots created before February 8, 1977 and 60,000 square feet for lots created after that date. The VR allows a maximum density of three units per acre on minimum lot sizes of 10,000 square feet for single family detached units and duplexes.

Program Status

The original TDR program was used in a few subdivisions. It is too early to evaluate the effectiveness of the 2008 amendments since they were adopted during the economic recession that started in 2008.