Plymouth, Massachusetts

Plymouth, Massachusetts, population 56,468 (2010), lies 40 miles southeast of Boston on the western shore of Cape Cod Bay. Plymouth has a TDR program designed to protect sensitive resources by transferring development rights between sending and receiving sites within its Rural Residential and R-40 zoning districts.

Plymouth uses TDR to preserve a wide variety of resources including public access to ponds and forests.

All sending sites must be located in the Rural Residential (RR) District. The Planning Board determines whether the proposed sending sites meet the following criteria for the land of significant economic or environmental character:

  1. wellhead protection areas;
  2. aquifer recharge areas;
  3. potential public water supply areas;
  4. land designated under G.L. Chapter 61, 61A and/or 61B;
  5. locations of historic and/or cultural significance;
  6. land areas contiguous with permanently protected open space;
  7. land areas providing access to natural resources such as water bodies and forest;
  8. land containing significant natural resources such as rare species habitat, contiguous forest areas, and similar areas;
  9. land with potential for municipal use(s); and/or
  10. land so situated that, if developed, would result in the need for significant capital improvements for roads, water distribution, wastewater treatment, and other needed capital facilities and services.

To determine the number of TDRs available for transfer from a sending parcel, the owner submits a preliminary subdivision plan showing the number of lots that could be created on the sending site under applicable zoning and subdivision regulations. The owner also submits an appraisal. The development rights available for transfer are calculated by the formula FMV/AVG. FMV is the difference between the projected value of lot sales and the projected infrastructure costs. AVG is the average assessed value of a buildable lot located in the RR.

Prior to TDR use, the property owner must record a conservation easement on the sending site permanently requiring the parcel to be left in its natural state and prohibiting or limiting the construction of any structure. Alternatively, the sending site owner can convey the title to the beneficiary.

Receiving sites must be located in the Rural Residential (RR) zone, the R-40 zone, or the Rural Residential Receiving Area (RRRA) zone. The RRRA is one or more contiguous parcels in the RR at least 500 acres in size and have at least 500 feet of frontage on a major street.

Receiving sites in the RR and R-40 are approved via special permit. When receiving sites are on the land with subdivision plans endorsed before October 26, 2004, with-TDR density cannot exceed 150 percent of the density otherwise permitted.

Receiving sites in the RRRA require only site plan approval by the planning board without the need for a special permit process and maximum with-TDR density cannot exceed one dwelling unit per 40,000 square feet.