Polk County, Florida

Polk County, population 724,777 (2019), lies in the center of the Florida peninsula, approximately 25 miles east of Tampa and 35 miles southwest of Orlando. The County’s economy is based on phosphate mining, citrus farming, and tourism. The County is dotted with small lakes and tourist attractions such as Cypress Gardens and Bok Tower, which sits atop the highest point of land in peninsular Florida. Approximately 220,000 acres of Polk County lies within the Green Swamp, designated as an Area of State Concern for its critical role as a water retention area for the Floridan Aquifer, which provides fresh water for much of the region.

Polk County uses TDR to preserve uplands and agricultural areas.

The Polk County TDR provisions are designed to provide flexibility to landowners while minimizing the potential for negative impacts from transferred development rights. The regulations allow landowners to limit development potential by a special warranty deed which contains a covenant permanently restricting the development of the sending site and conveying that foregone development potential to a receiving site. The receiving site must be zoned for higher density than the sending site. The combined density of the sending and receiving site cannot exceed the total number of dwelling units allowed to these sites by the applicable future land use districts. The receiving site must also be within one mile of the sending site. Development rights can be converted from one land use to another, (such as from residential to commercial) based on the trip generation rates found in the Institute of Traffic Engineers Trip Generation Manual. Transfers can be approved administratively by the County’s Development Review Committee.

County planners report that the TDR option has been used about a dozen times, generally to transfer development from upland or agricultural areas to receiving sites on lakeshore properties. Most of these transfers have involved from 20 to 30 lots, with the largest transaction resulting in the transfer of approximately 200 lots to a lakeside location.