Sarasota County, Florida

(Profiled 2-26-21)

Sarasota County, population 433,742 (2019), lies 50 miles south of Tampa on the Gulf Coast of Florida. The county adopted its first TDR program in 1981 aimed at preserving environmentally sensitive areas, agriculture, parcels of historic or archeological significance, and barrier islands as well as reducing a large number of substandard lots in antiquated subdivisions. This program preserved 8,200 acres with 8,169 of these acres purchased by the county itself as part of a legal settlement (Linkous & Chapin 2014).

In 1999, Sarasota County adopted a Conservation TDR program establishing a Conservation Sending Zone (CSZ) overlay covering category 1 and 2 storm surge zones, watercourses, and areas of special flood hazard, as well as ecologically significant areas. Annexations and regulatory changes eventually undermined many of the primary receiving areas, however, the Conservation TDR program did succeed in protecting 730 acres by 2012 (Linkous 2012).     

In 2002, Sarasota County adopted its 2050 comprehensive plan which added other permutations to the TDR program. As of February 2021, Sec. 124-103 of the Sarasota County Unified Development Code designated its Residential Sending Zone (RSZ) as land meeting at least one of the following criteria: 1) A platted subdivision that is non-conforming due to lot size, lack of paved streets or drainage, or other deficiencies; 2) Environmentally-sensitive areas including lands of high ecological value; 3) Areas that should be retained in agriculture, open space or other conservation use; 4) Parcels of historical or archeological significance; and 5) Parcels on a Barrier Island.

Land designated as a Conservation Sending Zone (CSZ), the program’s other sending area, must be at least 500 acres when combined with its receiving site and meet one or more criteria: 1) Sites of High Ecological Value; 2) FEMA-designated areas of Special Flood Hazard; 3) Category 1 and 2 storm surge areas, or 4) a watercourse or slough system along with associated contiguous wetlands and mesic hammock areas potentially including up to a 200-foot buffer.

The density increases allowed via TDR vary depending on whether the receiving site is zoned Residential Receiving Zone (RRZ), High-Density Residential Receiving Zone (HDRRZ), Future Urban Development (FUD), or Future Urban Residential Receiving Zone (FURRZ). For example, in the RRZ, TDRs can be used to increase dwelling units to 125 percent of the maximum density allowed by the underlying zoning or beyond 125-percent by special exception but not greater than 13 units per acre. As another example, in the HDRRZ, which is intended to implement the Comprehensive Plan in Town and Village Centers, the maximum density achievable with TDR is established by an adopted plan but cannot exceed 25 units per acre.

By 2012, the third generation of Sarasota County’s TDR program had protected another 1,242 acres by transfers to a single receiving site development, bringing the total for all three programs to 10,172 acres protected (Linkous 2012).


Linkous, E. The Use of Transfer of Development Rights to Manage Growth: The Adoption and Performance of Florida County TDR Programs. PhD dissertation. University of Pennsylvania.

Linkous, E. & T. Chapin. 2014. TDR Program Performance in Florida. Journal of the American Planning Association, 80:3, 253-267.