Orange County, Florida

Orange County, population 1,145,956 (2010), surrounds the City of Orlando in east-central Florida. In 1995, Orange County adopted TDR provisions designed to preserve wetlands and uplands as called for in specific area plans (SAPs) using a Village Planned Development Code.

As codified in the County zoning code Section 38-1384(a), density can be transferred from uplands and wetlands in greenbelts surrounding villages and wetlands within villages. The village land use plan must identify all sending and receiving sites; if approved, all wetlands and upland greenbelts can be designated as sending areas and all development parcels can be designated as receiving areas. In addition to transfers internal to the village boundaries (described above) density can be transferred from sending sites outside the village boundaries as long as these development rights are transmitted prior to or concurrent with the approval of a planned development or subdivision receiving these rights.

Section 30-725 of the code further establishes procedures for the transfer of development rights in the village land use classification, beginning with an explanation that the County intends to use the village strategy to avoid sprawl and promote compact pedestrian-friendly and transit-feasible development surrounded by greenbelts. This code section includes allocation ratios for two villages. In Lakeside village, greenbelt uplands are assigned 11 TDRs per acre and wetlands are assigned one TDR per 3.5 acres. In Bridgewater village, greenbelt uplands are assigned 17.1 TDRs per acre and wetlands are assigned one TDR per 2.9 acres.

Receiving areas have baseline densities ranging from 2 dwelling units per acre to 12 units per acre depending on the SAP designation. Developers must buy TDRs to build above or below these baselines. An example provided in Section 30-727 hypothesizes a 20 acre parcel with a baseline density of 3 units per acre, which would yield 60 dwelling units at the baseline density. A developer could use the 11 TDRs earned via preservation of one acre of greenbelt uplands to increase the development of this 20-acre site to 71 units or decrease it to 49 units. When using TDR to increase density, the maximum density is twice that of the baseline density for four zones. In the fifth zone, TDR can be used to increase density from a baseline of 12 units per acre to a maximum of 20 units per acre. When using TDR to decrease density, the resulting density must generally remain at least half the baseline density in four of the five zones. In the fifth zone, TDR can be used to decrease density from a baseline of 12 units per acre to no less than 8 units per acre.

The following program details are provided by The Use of Transfer of Development Rights to Manage Growth: The Adoption and Performance of Florida County TDR Programs, a 2012 dissertation by Evangeline R. Linkous.

  • The TDR program was designed to implement a planning strategy known as Horizons West, intended to discourage sprawl in western Orange County.
  • The County identified six villages but development has only occurred in two: Lakeside and Bridgewater Crossing.
  • One applicant applied to use TDR but subsequently withdrew the application, leaving the Orange County program with no transfer activity.
  • Orange County staff attributes the lack of transfers to the downturn in the real estate market.