The Town of Rhinebeck, population 7,762 (2000), lies on the east bank of the Hudson River in Dutchess County, New York, roughly 100 miles north of New York City. Rhinebeck is home to the Hudson River National Historic Landmark District, a designation that recognizes this landscape as being an inspiration to the Hudson River School of Painting. The Town is also designated by the United States as an American Heritage River and by the State of New York as part of the Mid-Hudson Historic Shoreland Scenic District, the Estates District Scenic Area of Statewide Significance and state scenic byways. To maintain this scenic heritage, Rhinebeck aims to protect a critical mass of farmland, open space and significant environmental areas using TDR.
The sending areas are parcels zoned HP20, RA10 and RL5 that lie within the designated districts mentioned above. When permanent conservation easements are recorded on these sending sites, the owners can receive one TDR for each 20 acres permanently preserved by conservation easement in the HP20 and one TDR per 10 acres in the RA10. However, sending sites that are documented working farms are granted one TDR for every 5 acres placed under easement. Working farms must be owner-operated, qualified to receive New York’s agricultural tax exemption and must generate more than 50 percent of the owners’ annual gross income. Owners may transfer some or all of their TDRs.
The receiving areas are parcels zoned RA10 and RL5 that the Planning Board has found to be appropriate for accepting additional density. Receiving sites zoned RA10 must be at least 250 acres in size and sites zoned RL5 must be at least 100 acres in size. The program allows transfers within the RA10 and RL5 districts and from the RA10 to the RL5. However, transfers cannot occur between properties in the HP20 or from parcels zoned RA10 or RL5 into the HP20 district.
Developers who want to use the TDR option apply for a special permit accompanied by a development plan for the receiving parcel. In addition to environmental review, Rhinebeck examines these applications for potential harm to scenic views and prime farmland as well as compatibility with surrounding properties. In addition, the program encourages receiving sites to be located as close as possible to the Village of Rhinebeck in order to take advantage of the availability of public transportation, bike/pedestrian facilities as well as public water and sewer.
The TDR baseline in receiving site projects is the maximum density allowed by the RA10 (10 units per acre) and the RL5 (5 units per acre). Maximum development achievable via TDR is 20 percent of the gross acreage of the receiving site multiplied by two. For example, a 500 acre site would be allowed a maximum of 200 units with TDR of which 50 units would be baseline (assumed an RA10 zone) and 150 would be bonus units achievable only by TDR. However, the maximum number of dwelling units allowed on a receiving site cannot exceed 225 even using TDR. The Planning Board can waive dimensional requirements in order to accommodate the bonus development resulting from TDR. Presumably the ability to waive certain dimensional requirements does not extend to the requirement to record a conservation easement on at least 80 percent of the receiving site as permanent open space.