Indian River County, Florida*


Indian River County, population 112,947 (2000), lies between Orlando and Miami on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The County’s comprehensive plan was updated in the mid 1980s. At that time, TDR regulations were adopted to implement the plan’s goals to preserve wetlands and other environmentally-sensitive areas. As a result of plan review in 1990, the TDR program was expanded to provide density bonus provisions designed to encourage the development of affordable housing.

Indian River County uses TDR to preserve wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas as well as promote affordable housing.

In a January 2001 update, Stan Boling, Planning Director, reported that the program was slightly modified in the late 1990s by an increase in density bonus available to receiving site projects using the affordable housing incentives.


The County does not predetermine sending and receiving sites. Instead, sending and receiving sites are proposed as part of applications for Planned Developments. The County Zoning Code prohibits any residential project from exceeding the maximum density limits unless a density bonus is granted through the Planned Development process. Density bonuses are only allowed for the transfer of density from environmentally-sensitive lands and to promote affordable housing.

To transfer density away from environmentally-sensitive areas, a developer proposes a Planned Development which includes both the sending site and an upland receiving site which is not environmentally-sensitive or zoned for agriculture. The density on the upland receiving site cannot be increased more than 20 percent of the maximum density allowed by the receiving site’s underlying comprehensive plan land use designation where the receiving site is not adjacent to the area from which the density is transferred. If the sending site and receiving sites are adjacent, the maximum density on the receiving site can be increased by 50 percent of the maximum density allowed by the underlying comprehensive plan land use designation. Construction on the receiving site cannot begin until conservation easements have been recorded which restrict development on the sending sites.

The program provides a significant incentive to use TDR in the form of an extremely generous transfer ratio. Owners of environmentally-sensitive land can build on that land but at a density of one dwelling per 40 acres. However, when these owners use TDR, they can transfer development rights at the rate of one unit per acre. This represents a transfer ratio of 40:1.

Indian River County also employs TDR as part of its efforts to promote affordable housing through density bonuses. The County offers density bonus to projects which provide affordable units in any of three ways: monetary contribution, on-site construction and off-site construction. In the monetary contribution program, a developer receives a density bonus by contributing to the county local housing assistance fund according to a formula which estimates the cost of producing affordable housing units.

In the on-site program, the additional density granted to a project increases in proportion with the percent of the project pledged to affordable units; for example, a developer is granted a ten percent increase in density for a project in which from ten to twenty percent of the units are affordable.

It is the off-site program which uses transfers to promote affordable housing. In the off-site program, a developer may obtain a density bonus for a project at one location in return for building affordable units at another location. In the early 1990s, receiving sites using the affordable housing provisions were limited to a five-percent density bonus. In a January 2001 update, Stan Boling, Planning Director noted that this component of the TDR program was modified to allow receiving site density bonuses of over ten percent, (but still no more than 20 percent overall), when affordable housing is built at an off-site location.


The Indian River County TDR program has some excellent features. The potential sending sites, environmentally-sensitive lands, are limited to a density of one unit per 40 acres for development on site. This land use restriction alone creates a strong motivation to transfer rights. But, in addition, when TDR is used, these rights can be transferred at the rate of one unit per acre, a 40:1 transfer ratio! The County Code also makes TDR and affordable-housing density bonuses the only way for a developer to exceed code-required density limit on receiving sites.

Despite these advantages TDR has not as yet been used either to transfer density from environmentally-sensitive areas or to transfer density from off-site affordable housing projects. Even though the density limits allowed by the County’s zoning are low, these limits are still higher than the densities required by current development projects. According to Stan Boling, Planning Director of Indian River County, there is little demand for transferred density because the zoning allows the density that most developers want. Consequently, the use of TDR in the County is not likely to increase until there is a demand for higher density developments.

As reported by Director Stan Boling in January 2001, no transfers had occurred under the program at that time.

* This profile is unchanged from the 2003 book Beyond Takings and Givings