Kent County, Delaware

Kent County, population 126,697 (2000), is the one of three counties in the State of Delaware. The western county line serves as the border with the State of Maryland. The shores of Delaware Bay form the eastern county line as well as the state border.

Kent County, Delaware uses TDR to preserve farmland, open space and natural resources.

In August 2004, Kent County adopted a TDR Ordinance designed to preserve farmland, open space and other natural resources as well as discourage sprawl by encouraging development in growth areas accommodated by public services.

The County has adopted a Growth Zone Overlay which generally runs on a north-south axis through the center of the county along State Highway 1 and U.S. Highway 13, with the City of Smyrna on the north, Dover in the center and Milford on the south county border. Land outside the Growth Zone Overlay automatically qualifies as a TDR sending site. Owners may also request to use parcels within the Growth Zone as sending sites. However, these owners must demonstrate that preservation of their parcels would achieve results that are comparable to the preservation of land outside the Growth Zone Overlay.

Outside the Growth Zone Overlay, all land has been placed in one of three TDR sending area priority categories based on five factors: 1) a “very high” Land Evaluation and Site Assessment (LESA) score; 2) proximity to existing preserved lands; 3) historic resources; 4) designation as a State Resource Protection Area; 4) designation as an Excellent Water Recharge Area; and 5) lands adjoining the east side of State Route 1.

Each of the three priority categories has a different TDR allocation rate.

  • Primary: 1.5 Dwelling Unit Credits per acre
  • Secondary: 1.0 Dwelling Unit Credits per acre
  • Tertiary: 0.5 Dwelling Unit Credits per acre

The sending area west of the Growth Zone Overlay is primarily designated as Secondary and Tertiary. Most of the sending area classified as Primary lies east of State Route 1. In fact the third of the County lying east of State Route 1 and west of Delaware Bay is designated as a Primary TDR Sending Area.

The allocation rate can only be applied to net developable acreage, which does not include land constrained by ponds, floodplains, wetlands and any other feature that would prevent development under the County subdivision code.

Receiving areas occupy roughly two thirds of the Growth Zone Overlay. Receiving areas are separated into one of two TDR priority categories based on location within the Growth Zone Overlay, availability of sewer and water, proximity to transportation and services and adjacency to municipalities. (The County ordinance also provides for receiving areas within incorporated cities, allowing for inter-jurisdictional transfers if any cities choose to participate.) The baseline density in the receiving areas is three dwelling units per acre. Maximum density allowed is seven units per acre in the Primary Receiving Areas and five units per acre in the Secondary Receiving Areas.

In addition to maximum density, the TDR ordinance details the development regulations applicable to TDR receiving area developments including street layout, pedestrian amenities, landscaping, parks, community facilities and non-residential uses. In addition, the TDR ordinance contains specific design standards for building orientation and architecture.

Although the TDR Ordinance was adopted in August 2004, it did not become effective until January 1, 2005. According to Sarah Keifer, Director of the Planning Services Department, the County also was under a development moratorium for most of 2007. Nevertheless, as of August 2009, easements had been recorded on six properties preserving about 180 acres and generating 157 credits. As of that time, four receiving area projects were proposed. One of these projects was approved but expired. Another was denied. And a third had passed the preliminary approval stage as of August 2009. However, the 465-unit Auburn Meadows receiving site project received final approval and has been recorded.