Kennett Township, population 7,500, lies in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 25 miles west of Philadelphia. Voters approved an open space tax that generates about $850,000 per year. Roughly half of the township is undeveloped but only 20% of the total land area is permanently preserved as shown in the map below. Kennett aims to increase that to 30% in the next 10 years, which means preserving about 100 acres per year. Kennett Township’s 2015 Comprehensive Plan proposed using TDR to supplement other preservation efforts and the Board adopted a TDR ordinance in 2015.
Kennett’s TDR code section targets farmland, woodlands, sensitive natural areas and scenic open spaces for permanent preservation. The number of TDRs severable from a sending area property is calculated by multiplying each net acre by 0.35 for land zoned R-1 or 0.57 for land zoned R-2.
Net acreage is calculated by subtracting all land within public rights of way, covered by ponds, streams or other permanent surface water or precluded from development by existing easements In addition, land with slopes greater than 25% or within flood hazard district are multiplied by 0.5 and subtracted from gross acreage to achieve net acreage.
Interested sending area property owners apply by submitting the following:
1) A plot plan or survey identifying gross and net acreage;
2) A calculation of the total number of TDRs available to the parcel (which must ultimately be endorsed by the Township;
3) A plan showing where easements are proposed, the number of TDRs to be severed and the number of TDRs remaining (property owners have the option of applying conservation easements to portions of their property and consequently generating only some of the total number of TDRs available to the site);
4) A title search; and
5) A proposed conservation easement (to be approved by the township prior to recordation) showing the Township and/or a bona fide conservation organization as grantee and deed of transfer which must be endorsed by the Township prior to recordation.
When all paperwork is approved, the deed of transfer and the easement are simultaneously recorded and TDRs are issued. These TDRs can be retired, held or transferred for use on receiving sites. For receiving sites zoned for multifamily residential, at least 5 TDRs must be used. TDRs can increase density, building height, building bulk or lot coverage as explained below.
When used to increase density, each TDR yields three bonus age-restricted units or two bonus non-age-restricted units up to a maximum density of twice the baseline density.
Each additional code exception requires additional TDRs at the rate of one TDR for each of the following:
- 3,000 sf of additional lot coverage;
- 5,000 sf of additional impervious coverage;
- 5,000 sf of floor area above baseline height up to 50-ft height;
- 3,000 sf of floor area for portions of the building between 50 and 60 feet in height (75 feet in some districts) subject to view studies and additional upper floor setback requirements.
The on-site open space requirement can be reduced by one percent for each TDR up to a maximum reduction of 10 percent of the standard open space requirement.
The ordinance allows the Township to hold, sell or extinguish TDRs that it buys or receives as a gift. The Chester County Agricultural Preserve Board and non-profit conservancies that buy TDRs or are given TDRs as a gift may resell these TDRs provided that all revenues from those sales are used for additional purchases of TDRs in Kennett Township.
In 2016, the Township announced that the TDR program would be used for the first time in conjunction with the purchase of its first park. The 45-acre park would be purchased in fee using open space tax revenues and other sources. A developer agreed to buy the TDRs from this land as well as from an adjacent 11-acre parcel to be placed under conservation easement. The developer planned to transfer the TDRs to a multiple-use development on a receiving site.
Yetter, Jeff. 2018. Chairman, Land Conservation Advisory Committee, Kennett Township. Letter to editor, Southern Chester County. Accessed on April 24 at http://www.southernchestercountyweeklies.com/article/SC/20180420/NEWS/180429999.