Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania

The Township of Upper Dublin, population 25,000, lies roughly 20 miles north of Philadelphia in Montgomery County Pennsylvania. Fort Washington Office Park (FWOP) is the township’s primary employment center with over 100 individual businesses employing 12,000 workers and occupying 6 million square feet of floor area within FWOP’s 536 acres. FWOP has experienced higher than average vacancy rates due in part to flooding.

A 2011 study of the FWOP concluded that 17 buildings closest to Pine Run and Rapp Run would be vulnerable to a 50-year flood event even if flood retarding structures were built on both creeks. In an effort to remove buildings from the floodplain, the 2011 study recommended the combined use of three tools: purchase of floodplain lands, strengthened zoning restricting future development within the floodplain and a TDR program in which the sending areas would be the land susceptible to flooding and the receiving areas would be revitalizing uplands within FWOP. On November 26, 2013, Upper Dublin implemented the third recommendation of the 2011 report by adopting a TDR ordinance.

The TDR ordinance identifies the 22 properties with a combined land area of 77.58 acres which constitute the sending area. These properties are all occupied by existing buildings and the ordinance specifies the number of development rights available to each property based on the following formula: 1 development credit per 5,000 sf of existing office/hotel or 1/5th credit for 5,000 sf of potential office/hotel; 1 development credit per 10,000 sf of existing industrial/warehouse building or 1/3th credit for 10,000 sf of potential industrial/warehouse; 1 development credit per 3,500 sf of existing retail building or 1/2 credit for 3,500 sf of potential retail. Based on this formula, the ordinance identifies a total of 155.72 credits on all 22 properties.

In order to be granted credits, the owner of a sending property must demolish all structures on the site, re-vegetate the land, record a Deed of Dedication specifying that the property will be uses for public purposes and pay the township a fee (initially proposed as $30,000 per credit) for maintenance and management of the sending parcel.

Ten of the sending area parcels are partly within and partly outside the floodplain. These parcels can be subdivided as long as the non-floodplain portion of the parcel is at least two acres in size and is developable under all applicable building and setback requirements.

On receiving parcels, the amount of bonus development achievable for 0.25 development credit is 10,000 additional sf of office floor area, 12,500 sf of additional residential floor area; and 2,500 additional sf of retail floor area. No more than 24 development credits can be used for residential and residential uses are limited to specified sites within the FWOP. The baseline and maximum densities achievable via TDR are from 0.25 FAR to 0.55 FAR for office and from 0.60 FAR to 0.85 FAR for hotels. Retail uses on the first floor of multi-story buildings may exceed the baseline of 750 sf and achieve a maximum of 10,000 sf as long as the final retail floor area does not exceed 50 percent of the total building size. The density increases for residential vary depending on building height.

Selected development requirements are reduced for receiving site projects using development credits; for example, parking ratios are reduced from 5 spaces per 1,000 sf to 3.5 spaces per 1,000 sf for non-residential buildings using development credits and impervious surface limits are increased to a maximum of 85 percent for receiving site projects using development credits.