Hellam Township, population 5,930 (2000), lies 75 miles west of Philadelphia on the west bank of the Susquehanna River. It has a rich agricultural tradition and is rightfully proud of its many historic barns.
In 2004, Hellam adopted a TDR ordinance designed to preserve farmlands and open space. The sending area is land within a TDR Sending Area Overlay District. In this overlay, no more than ten percent of a parent tract can be developed and residential lots have a minimum size requirement of two acres and a maximum size limitation of 2.5 acres. Each parent tract in the overlay is allocated development rights based on the size of the parcel when the TDR ordinance was adopted. To develop on-site, the owner of land within this overlay must use development rights and can only use the development rights allocated to that tract. In other words, parcels in the sending area overlay cannot serve as receiving areas. In addition, owners of property within the overlay can elect to transfer their allocated rights.
Parent tracts in the sending area overlay are allocated no development rights for the first two acres, one development right per acre for the next three to ten acres and 0.5 TDRs per acre for each acre in excess of ten acres. A sending area landowner requests a calculation of transferable rights based on the land area of the tract as documented in a deed or, when necessary, through a survey.
When sending area landowners elect to transfer TDRs (as opposed to using them on site), the conveyance occurs via a Deed of Development Rights which is recorded after a Declaration of Restriction of Development is recorded on the sending site. Under this Declaration, the owner can elect to retain some or no development rights on the parent tract.
In the Hellam program, receiving areas must be located in the R (Residential), MU-2 (Mixed Use 2), C/I (Commercial/Industrial), I (Interchange) and Q (Quarry) districts. An application to use the TDR option must indicate the baseline density, the bonus density sought, the number of TDRs needed and the source of those TDRs in the form of a copy of a Deed of Development Rights or an agreement to buy development rights.
The number of TDRs needed to achieve various types of development differs depending on the zoning of the receiving site. As explained above, owners wanting on-site development of land in the sending area overlay must use development rights allocated to that tract. There are TDR requirements for nine categories of use in the sending area overlay including the following three examples.
- Two DRs to create one new lot less than five acres in size and build a house on it
- One DR for each 4,000 square feet of impervious surface coverage when building a second dwelling on a farm without creating a new lot
- Three DRs to build one dwelling on a lot less than two acres in size which existed on July 15, 2004, the effective date of the ordinance
Developers wishing to exceed baseline density in R district and Village Overlay may achieve one bonus dwelling unit per transferred development right up to a maximum density of 4.5 single family units per acre, 5.5 semi-detached units per acre and 7.0 units per acre of all other dwelling types. Developers wishing to exceed baseline intensity in the C/I and I zones may achieve 4,000 square feet of additional impervious surface coverage for each transferred development right up to a maximum coverage of 75 percent in C/I zone and 65 percent in the I zone. In the MU-2 zone, developers may achieve 4,000 square feet of additional impervious surface coverage per development right up to a maximum of 60 percent coverage. Similarly, in the MU-2 zone, each transferred development right allows density to increase from a baseline of 0.9 units per acre to a maximum 1.5 units per acre.
According to Hellam’s State of the Township 2009, in 2008 alone, 96.5 TDRs were sold, bartered or severed.