St. Petersburg, Florida

The City of St. Petersburg, population 244,324 (2009), is located in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The City’s comprehensive plan called for preservation of environmentally-sensitive areas. To implement the plan, a new code was adopted in 1977 which rezoned the entire City and created a new zoning classification of “Preservation Area”. Limited development at very low density is permitted in this zone but preservation is encouraged using TDR as an incentive.

St. Petersburg is within Pinellas County, where the voters have given the County government the authority to set certain policy parameters for land use regulations. In the area of TDR, the County Board, in 1993, determined that if local governments use TDR, they must use the sending and receiving site restrictions established by the County.

St. Petersburg’s TDR provisions have been amended since the 2003 publication of Beyond Takings and Givings. Consequently, this profile is based on the code section that appears in the 2011 version of the St. Petersburg zoning code.


St. Petersburg provides separate TDR code sections for environmental preservation and historic preservation. The environmental program ( creates an economic incentive to preserve environmentally sensitive lands by allowing the owners of land in designated preservation districts to sell their development rights. Preservation districts contain land of ecological significance including but not limited to salt marshes, deciduous forest, pine flatwoods, pine woods, mangrove swamps, hydric and upland hammocks, freshwater marshes, tidal marshes, beaches, natural drainage areas and flood plains or lands designated as Preservation Area in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The Code recognizes that protection of these environmental resources benefits all residents. Consequently, the regulations are designed so that the owners of environmentally-sensitive lands do not have to single-handedly shoulder the preservation responsibilities.

The Preservation Area designation acts as an overlay zone in which extra restrictions apply in addition to the requirements of the underlying zone. Preservation Areas are identified through a site evaluation process in which points are awarded for the presence of significant ecological resources. A site plan for limited development in Preservation Areas can be approved if the density does not exceed 0.05 FAR and no more than ten percent of the site is covered by impervious surfaces. The remaining 90 percent of the Preservation Area must be preserved in its natural state. Originally, 25 percent of the Preservation Areas was allowed to be developed. But, as mentioned above, Pinellas County established county-wide parameters for preservation areas in 1993 and St. Petersburg amended its program to be consistent.

When land in a preservation district is preserved in its natural state and not developed, altered or improved, the owner can transfer density or intensity credits for dwelling units or FAR. Sending sites can be preserved by any of four methods: conveying title to the City; recording a deed restriction on the property that cannot be released without City approval; by a 99-year lease allowing the City exclusive use of the land for the preservation of open space; or by conveyance of the land or an easement to a governmental agency for preservation purposes. Following preservation, transfers can occur at the ratio of one dwelling unit per acre or the square footage available at 0.05 FAR of the preservation district property.

Receiving parcels are either abutting parcels under the same ownership or property in the Corridor Commercial Suburban-1 district. The transferred development potential cannot allow the resulting development on the receiving parcel to exceed the maximum density or intensity permitted by the zoning district of the receiving parcel.

The historic preservation transfer of development rights program ( offers an incentive for the owners of historic structures to retain their buildings rather than demolish them to make way for larger buildings. Sending sites are designated landmarks or landmark sites other than contributing structures in a historic district and any government owned property. The exterior of historic resource must be preserved and rehabilitated in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Preservation and Rehabilitation.

For a landmark building, transferable square footage is the greater of the following two calculations: ten times the floor area of the landmark (20 times for a landmark built before 1901) or the difference between the gross floor area of the structure and the maximum floor area allowed to the site by zoning.  For a landmark site, such as cemetery or archeological site, transferable floor area is five times the size of the landmark site after deducting any lot area occupied by a landmark building. The transferable floor area is referred to as TDR H credits, as distinguished from the TDR E credits granted under the environmental program. For each square foot of development credit transferred, $0.50 must be given to the City’s historic preservation grant program minus any funds spent on required restoration or rehabilitation work.

Receiving sites for H credits are properties in the downtown center and corridor commercial suburban districts. The development bonus available via TDR differs depending on the zoning of the receiving site. For example, TDR can increase residential density by nine dwelling units per acre in the CCS-1 zone and can increase non-residential floor area by 0.2 FAR in the CCS-1 and 0.11 FAR in the CCS-3 zone.

Program Status

As of a January 2001 update,  David Goodwin, Planning Program Manager, reported that approximately 150 units had been transferred. In an earlier letter from 1998, Goodwin stated that the St. Petersburg TDR program was hampered by the lack of suitable receiving parcels.