Huntington, Suffolk County, New York

The Town of Huntington, population 195,289 (2000), lies in North Central Long Island in western Suffolk County. Huntington is only 30 miles east of Manhattan via the Long Island Expressway. Despite longstanding growth pressure, some open space remains undeveloped in Huntington.

In December 2007, the Huntington Town Board noted that a form of TDR could be used to address development limitations imposed by the policies of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. Specifically, the Health Department will not approve the development of properties located outside of sewer districts that are smaller than 20,000 square feet. As a result, properties in nine zoning districts are unable to achieve the densities nominally allowed by the zoning code.

In March 2008, the Town adopted an ordinance for the transfer of density flow rights. The stated intent of this ordinance is to preserve natural open space while encouraging responsible economic development as well as promoting affordable/workforce housing, reducing sprawl, encouraging smart growth and facilitating economic development, particularly the revitalization of infill and brownfield sites.

The currency in this program is density flow rights, the rights allowed to a site by the County Sanitary Code depending on the site’s groundwater recharge zone. These density flow rights are independent of the density allowed by the zoning code. Density flow rights can be transferred between private parties in accordance with this ordinance. In addition, the ordinance facilitates the application of publicly-held flow rights as a way of achieving goals identified in the Comprehensive Plan such as affordable housing.

Sending sites should ideally be within Special Groundwater Protection Areas. Potential sending sites (as well as receiving sites) cannot be located in sewer districts and flow rights cannot be transferred from land that is already developed or already protected by easements or prior transfers.

The flow credits available at a sending site are calculated using one of the following two methods. 1) If a subdivision at a proposed sending site would require a road, the applicant must produce a yield map depicting the number of 20,000-square foot lots that could be created considering the land area needed for roads and other improvements such as recharge basins. 2) Sending sites can generate one flow credit per 20,000 square feet of land area or one flow credit per lot established prior to 1981. The Town may reduce flow credits from land that could not actually support a septic wastewater disposal system, such as wetlands.

The Director of Planning and Environment issues a letter of interpretation to the owner of an interested sending site indicating the number of flow credit available should the owner decide to proceed. Once title has been transferred or a conservation easement recorded, the sending site owner is issued density flow credit certificates.

As with sending sites, receiving sites cannot be located within a sewer district. In addition, receiving sites cannot have a slope greater than ten percent or contain environmental resources that would be compromised by the added density. Sending and receiving sites must also be within the same groundwater management zone. The Planning Board must approve all proposed receiving sites as capable of accommodating the additional density while still meeting all standards for building permit issuance. In the case of public benefit transfers, the Board must find that the use of transferred flow credits would produce affordable/workforce housing, promote economic development in hamlet or village centers, deed land to the Town, provide environmental benefits, implement goals of the comprehensive plan and/or achieve other goals determined worthwhile by the Town Board.

The ordinance anticipates that flow rights will be severed from open space parcels acquired in the future by the Town and from previously-acquired Town-held properties that are subsequently rededicated to conservation purposes. When selling flow rights from its density rights bank, the Town must consider an appraisal of the flow rights, calculated as the difference in the receiving site value before and after application of these rights. However, the Town does not have to charge the full appraised value for these rights and may accept payment in the form of offsets provided by the proposed project.