Palm Beach County, Florida, population 1,497,000 (2019), is located on the Atlantic Coast roughly 60 miles north of Miami. After decades of losing environmentally significant land and agriculture, the county adopted a TDR program in 1993 that is successful largely because of its TDR bank. The TDR section of Palm Beach County’s Land Development Code (5.G.3.) has been amended at least six times, most recently in 2019.
As of January 2021, Section 5.G.3.F lists the following eligible sending sites:
- Lands designated RR-20 (Rural Residential, one unit per 20 acres)
- Lands designated as priority acquisition sites by the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Acquisition Selection Committee (ESLASC) or the Conservation Land Acquisition Selection Committee (CLASC) that meet criteria for rarity, biological diversity or the presence of species listed as endangered, threatened, rare or of special concern
- Lands designated as Agricultural Reserve (AGR)
- Privately-owned lands designated Conservation (CON)
- Other environmental or agricultural sites determined by the County Board to be worthy of protection
Section 5G3F4 provides the following allocation ratios minus one TDR for each residential structure remaining on the sending site:
- RR-20: one TDR per five acres, (a four to one transfer ratio)
- AGR (Agricultural Reserve): one TDR per acre.
- Priority acquisition sites outside the Urban-Suburban Tier: one TDR per five acres
- CON (Conservation): one dwelling unit per ten acres
- Eligible environmentally sensitive sites: maximum density permitted by the Future Land Use designation for the property
Potential sending areas are often subject to environmental constraints which can make it difficult for owners to build on eligible sending sites at the nominal densities permitted by the zoning code. Therefore, sending area property owners may be more motivated to choose the TDR option than these transfer ratios might suggest.
Other than code-conforming dwelling units that existed on the sending site prior to the TDR application, all other uses must comply with the restrictions imposed by the perpetual conservation easement needed to sever TDRs.
AGR sending sites cannot retain TDRs for future development. Other types of eligible sending sites can retain some TDRs but the county reserves the right to determine the portion of the sending site that will be subject to the conservation easement in order to link environmentally sensitive land, agricultural land, and open space.
To facilitate transfers, the Palm Beach County Code created a TDR Bank to purchase, hold and transfer TDRs. Importantly, the code specifically states that TDRS are generated from environmentally-sensitive lands purchased by the county through 1999. That provision allowed the bank to create, hold and sell TDR severed from environmentally-sensitive sites purchased by the county using proceeds from bond measures totaling $250 million approved by Palm Beach County voters in 1991 and 1999. As a result, Palm Beach County now has 34 nature preserves totaling over 31,000 acres of environmentally significant land qualified to generate TDRs. The TDRs from these properties were placed in the TDR Bank, creating an inventory of 9,000 TDRs (Pruetz 2012).
Developers have the option of buying TDRs from the owners of eligible non-public sending sites. However, sales from the county’s TDR bank save developers the time and uncertainty of having to find willing private sellers and negotiate a price for TDRs. Between 2002 and 2009, the prices for TDRs from the county TDR bank ranged from $10,000 to $50,000 each for bonus market-rate single family dwelling units. In fiscal year 2004-2005 alone, the TDR bank sold 435 TDRs. (For TDR bank prices in FY 2020-21, see table below). During housing booms, the sale of TDRs can be a meaningful revenue generator. In fiscal year 2004-05, the TDR bank charged $25,000 per TDR and sold 435 TDRs, generating over $10 million attributable entirely to the TDR program (Pruetz 2012). Revenue from the sale of bank TDRs is used for management and further acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands and wetlands.
Following amendments in 2011 or 2012, the Board of County Commissioners annually establishes the TDR bank sales price using median sales prices reported for the month of March by the Realtors Association of the Palm Beaches. Generally, the bank’s TDR price for single family, market-rate bonus units is ten percent of the current median sales price for single family homes and the bank’s TDR price for TDRs used in multifamily units is ten percent of the current median sales price for condo/multiple family units. However, various discounts are available, as depicted in the following table explaining the bank’s TDR sales prices effective July 1, 2020 (Palm Beach County 2020).
|Unit Type 1)||Full TDR Price(10% of Median Sales Price)||Workforce Housing (WHP) Price (5% of Full TDR Price)||Affordable Housing (AHP) Price (1% of Full TDR Price)|
|Single Family 2)||$37,000||$1,850||$370|
|Unit Type 1)||Neighborhood Plan Price 3) (75% of Full TDR Price)||Neighborhood Plan WHP Price (5% of NHP TDR Price)||Neighborhood Plan AHP Price (1% of NHP TDR Price)|
|Single Family 2)||$27,750||$1,388||$278|
|Unit Type 1)||Revitalization, Redevelopment and Infill Overlay (RRIO) Price 4)||RRIO WHP Price (5% of RRIO TDR Price)||RRIO AHP Price (1% of RRIO TDR Price)|
|Single Family 2)||$9,250||$463||$93|
- Per Article 5.G.3.G.4.c. TDRs shall proportionally reflect the unit mix of the non-TDR units
- Single Family includes single-family detached, zero lot line, and townhouse
- West Lake Worth Road Neighborhood Plan only, per Article 5.G.3.G.4.d.1) of the Unified Development Code
- Per FLUE Policy 1.2.1-e and Article 5.G.3.G.4.d.2) of the Unified Land Development Code, includes Urban Redevelopment Area, Countywide Community Redevelopment Areas, and Lake Worth Park of Commerce Urban Redevelopment Area
Receiving projects can be located within sites where developers request increased density in Planned Development Districts (PDDs) and Traditional Development Districts (TDDs) or where developers propose subdivisions that exceed the density of their land use designations. Land eligible for sending sites cannot qualify as receiving sites unless the receiving project is providing affordable housing units.
Receiving sites must be within the Urban/Suburban Tier, consistent with county plans and codes, and compatible with surrounding land uses, particularly environmentally-sensitive lands. To promote compatibility with environmentally-sensitive areas, the code requires buffer zones with native vegetation ranging from 50 to 200 feet depending on the density of the receiving site development. Increased buffer zones are also required when receiving site projects with higher densities are located near certain lower-density zoning districts including zones for single-family residential lots of 14,000 square feet or greater.
Palm Beach County has various affordability requirements for bonus units generated by TDR. Specifically, 34 percent of all TDR bonus units must be Workforce Housing Program (WHP) units. When a receiving site project mixes WHP with Affordable Housing Program (AHP) units, the Planning Director determines how to apply the bonuses offered for WHP versus AHP units.
In an effort to shift density from the western to the eastern parts of the county, the Palm Beach County TDR program offers different maximum density bonuses via TDR. West of the Florida Turnpike, density bonus is limited to two units per acre versus three per acre east of the turnpike. Bonuses can reach four units per acre in Revitalization Redevelopment and Infill Overlay areas and additional variability occurs when a project uses WHP and AHP density bonuses. An additional unit of bonus density can be gained at receiving sites in the Urban/Suburban Tier within one quarter mile of a public park, mass transit facility, commercial facility, or major industrial facility. To avoid land use conflicts, density bonus cannot exceed 100 percent of baseline density for receiving site projects in low-density zoning districts (with some exceptions).
The Planning, Zoning and Building Department reported in its Transfer of Development Rights 2010 Annual Report that the Palm Beach County TDR bank sold 415 TDRs in FY 2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10 leaving an inventory of 6,919 TDRs in the bank at the end of FY 2009-10.
Palm Beach County. 2020. Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program – TDR Bank 2020 Prices Effective July 1, 2020. Accessed 2-6-21 at PBC TDR Prices (pbcgov.org).
Pruetz, R. 2012. Lasting Value: Open Space Planning and Preservation Successes. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.