Warwick Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Warwick Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, population 19,323 (2019), is located 75 miles west of downtown Philadelphia, in Lancaster County. For decades, Lancaster County has been a national pacesetter in farmland preservation and Warwick Township leads the county, with 3,060 acres permanently preserved by several tools including TDR.

Warwick adopted a TDR ordinance in 1993 which was subsequently amended in 1997, 2001, 2009, and 2016. The program aims to protect the township’s agricultural economy and landscape as well as farmland itself. 

Owners of land in the Agricultural Zone who choose to participate are issued one TDR per two acres of qualifying land preserved by permanent easement.  Sending site owners can sever and sell some or all of their TDRs. When transferring only some of their TDRs, the sending site owner must submit a plan identifying the portion of the site where TDRs have been severed, the number of TDRs severed and the number remaining on the site. 

As of 2021, the program offers three types of incentives to developers of receiving sites. In the Campus Industrial Zone, TDRs developments can exceed a baseline of 10 percent lot coverage and achieve a maximum lot coverage of 70 percent by using one TDR for each 4,000 square feet of additional lot coverage. Buildings in this zone can also exceed a baseline height of 45 feet and attain a maximum height of 65 feet by using one TDR for each 4,000 square feet of additional lot coverage that would have been needed if the building were limited to a 45-foot height limit.  

In a third receiving site mechanism, housing-for-older-persons developments in the R-3 Residential zone can exceed a baseline of five units per acre and achieve a maximum density of 14 units per acre using one TDR per bonus unit per acre.

As expressly stated in the zoning code, Warwick can buy TDRs and accept TDRs as gifts. The township formed a bank initially capitalized with general fund money which has been replenished by income from the sale of its TDR holdings. The code also allows private, non-profit conservancies and the Lancaster County Agricultural Preserve Board to buy and resell TDRs as long as the sale proceeds are used exclusively to buy TDRs from Warwick sending sites. In effect, this process transforms what is typically a purchase of development rights (PDR) process into a TDR process. PDR programs simply retire development rights, making it necessary for more public money to be raised before additional rights can be purchased. Conversely, in Warwick Township, money from the Lancaster County Ag Preserve Program can be pooled with funds from the Lancaster Farmland Trust and Warwick itself to buy TDRs that can then be resold, turning what would otherwise be a single acquisition into a perpetual farmland preservation revolving fund.  

As of 2021, Warwick had preserved 1,617 acres, or over half of its 3,060-acre preserved farmland total, using TDR. The 3,060 acres of preserved land represents 44 percent of the total land area in Warwick’s Agricultural Zone. The township TDR bank alone purchased 668 TDRs and sold 450 TDRs as of 2021. A total of 833 TDRs have been purchased and 592 TDRs sold through Warwick’s cooperation mechanism with the Lancaster Farmland Trust and the Lancaster County Agricultural Land Preservation Board.