Springfield Township, York County, Pennsylvania

Springfield Township, population 5,152 (2010), is located immediately south of the City of York in York County, Pennsylvania. The rural township consists of farmlands, wooded areas and small villages. In the early 1990s, the Township adopted a TDR program designed to preserve farmland and sensitive environmental areas. This was a limited TDR program allowing transfers to occur only between parcels under common ownership.

Subsequently, Springfield adopted a Comprehensive Plan Update which calls for the protection of vital natural resources including farmlands, prime agricultural soils, water sheds, wetlands, woodlands and steep slopes. To implement the Plan, Springfield adopted a zoning ordinance in 1996 that uses TDR as a means of transferring development rights from sending areas in the Conservation and Agricultural zoning districts to receiving sites in the Residential Open Space, Residential and Village Center zoning districts. In addition to preserving the resources of the sending areas, the TDR provisions are designed to “encourage flexibility, economy, and ingenuity in the development of parcels in the designated receiving areas”.

In the Concept section of the TDR ordinance, Springfield emphasizes that transfers are voluntary agreements between willing buyers and sellers. The ordinance prohibits the Township from forcing the sale or use of development rights. The rights can be purchased, resold or held by anyone for future use for investment or other purposes.


Under the original TDR program, transfers could be made between parcels in the Conservation and Agricultural zoning districts as long as the parcels were under the same ownership. Although this program experienced two transfers, it allowed transfers into both the Conservation and Agricultural zoning district. Under the new program, adopted in January of 1996, the sending areas are parcels in the Conservation and Agricultural zoning districts. In these districts, the number of development rights available for transfer is determined by the total number of dwelling units permitted to be built on site. However, for each development right transferred, three additional units can be built on a receiving site, representing a transfer ratio of three-to-one.

On a parcel of land zoned either Conservation or Agricultural of less than five acres in size, one dwelling is permitted. However, the allowed density decreases as the size of the parcel increases; for example, a parcel 30 acres in size is allowed five dwellings, or a density of one unit per six acres. When a parcel is over 150 acres in size, seven units are permitted plus one additional lot per each 30 acres of land in excess of 150 acres.

To create transferable development rights, the owner submits a plan of the sending site showing the number of rights applicable to the parcel, the number to be transferred and the number remaining. (The sending site must either have an existing dwelling unit or retain at least one development right.) The Township Board must approve the creation of the transferable rights at a public meeting.

The Township Board also must approve a Deed of Transfer of Development Rights which specifies the individual or receiving site property to whom or to which the development rights are being transferred. The document cannot be recorded prior to the execution and recording of a Declaration of Restriction of Development, a deed restriction which permanently deed restricts the residential development on the sending parcel.

The receiving sites are parcels zoned Residential Open Space, Residential District and Village Center District. Developments using transferred rights can increase from a density of 1.0 to 1.2 units per acre, a 20 percent increase, in the Residential Open Space District, from 2.0 to 3.0 units per acre, a 50 percent increase, in the Residential District and from 2.5 to 3.0 units per acre, a 20 percent increase, in the Village Center District.

The ordinance also allows development rights to be converted into commercial floor area for use in commercial and office projects at a ratio of 4,000 square feet of floor area for each development right transferred from a sending site. However, each development right must be applied to either a residential or a commercial receiving site project.

The receiving site must be served by either a public water supply or central sanitary sewer system. The receiving site project must also comply with all development standards required by the zoning code. An application for a receiving site project must be accompanied by the following:

  • A preliminary plan showing the base density allowed on the sending site and the proposed development.
  • An application to apportion development rights on a sending site, or if the rights have already been severed, a copy of the Deed of Transfer of Development Rights.
  • An agreement for the sale of development rights if the developer has not already secured the rights.
  • Copies of the proposed Deeds of Transfer of Development Rights and Declaration of Restriction of Development.
  • Special requirements if the project is proposed to be phased.

The final plan for a receiving site development cannot be approved until the Town receives proof that the Deed of Transfer of Development Rights and the Declaration of Restriction of Development have been recorded. After approval of the final plan, a new deed for the receiving parcel must be recorded.

Springfield’s ordinance also provides a separate mechanism for transferring development rights on a one-to-one basis, by condition use permit, between parcels which are both in the Agricultural zoning district under several limitations:

  • Both parcels must be in common ownership.
  • The transfer of one development right allows only one addition dwelling on the receiving site.
  • The receiving site must have land of low quality for agricultural use or at least land of lower quality than that of the sending site.
  • The additional units cannot adversely affect adjacent agricultural activities.
  • The proposed receiving site is in an area of the Township that is agriculturally inferior to the area surrounding the sending site.
  • Development rights may not be transferred from a parcel if the development itself cannot occur due to steep slopes, wetlands or other physical features.
  • The sending parcel must retain the right to develop at least one dwelling or contain an existing unit.

Program Status

Two transfers occurred under the original TDR program. In both instances, a property owner transferred two development rights from a parcel on a dirt road to another parcel fronting on a paved road. In both cases, the sending site was zoned Conservancy and the Receiving site was zoned Agricultural.