West Bradford Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania

West Bradford, population 10,775 (2000), is located in the middle of Chester County about 40 miles west of Philadelphia. The Township still has scattered farmland and historic character. A covered bridge spans the East Branch of Brandywine Creek and the Township has eight historic structures and three historic districts (Marshallton, Trimbleville and Northbrook) on the National Register of Historic Places.

The TDR program in West Bradford Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, was used to preserve a prominent farm adjacent to the historic village of Marshallton.

According to an excellent TDR study prepared by the Brandywine Conservancy, the catalyst for preservation was a proposed development of the Albertson-Yerkes farm, a property with memorable scenic vistas just outside the National Register village of Marshallton. The Township ultimately adopted a TDR ordinance to preserve open space, sensitive natural areas and rural community character as well as provide the owners of land suitable for preservation with an opportunity to transfer their development potential to more appropriate locations.

Sending sites must be parcels that are at least 25 acres in size, zoned R-1 and containing at least one of the following features: 1) prime farmland, 2) mature woodlands, 3) stream valleys (with associated wetlands and floodplains), or 4) historic, scenic and cultural resources. To become a sending site, a registered professional must submit a site survey and a calculation of the site’s net developable area. Net area is determined by subtracting the following from gross tract area: a) all land already precluded from development by existing easements, b) rights of way, c) the R-1 minimum lot size for dwelling, d) land not used for agriculture, e) all land within the flood hazard district and f) land with 20% slope or greater. The remaining acreage is reduced again by 15 percent to represent land that would typically be devoted to roads and other infrastructure if the site were developed. The number of TDRs available for transfer is the net area divided by the minimum lot size requirement for the R-1 zone. Alternatively, the Township can determine available TDRs based on a sketch plan provided by the applicant to indicate the number of code-compliant lots that could legally be created on the site. To create TDRs, a restrictive covenant must be recorded that limits future use of the property to agriculture, public park land, conservation areas and similar uses with the exception of portions of the property where development rights are retained, if any.

Receiving sites must also be zoned R-1, be at least 25 acres in size and served by public water and water and within one-half mile of a public school. For each TDR, a receiving site developer can build one additional unit above baseline density up to a maximum density of two units per acre. The code specifies additional development standards for projects using the TDR option. Using procedures similar to those for sending areas, determination of baseline density begins with a calculation of net developable acreage of the receiving site. Baseline density is the greatest number of units allowed on site under non-TDR regulations of the R-1 zone, meaning net developable acreage times 0.4, the maximum density normally allowed. Alternatively, developers may submit a sketch plan to establish baseline density. Maximum density using TDR is the greatest number of lots allowable under the with-TDR regulations. The difference in these two numbers is the bonus density. One TDR is required for each of these bonus units.

As of April 2006, at least one transfer occurred, resulting in the preservation of 110 acres on the Albertson-Yerkes farm, the scenic farm that was threatened with development, leading to adoption of West Bradford’s TDR ordinance. In a study of Pennsylvania TDR programs, the Brandywine Conservancy noted that West Bradford’s first receiving area, Stonegate, has smaller than lots than adjacent developments but offset potential community opposition by providing an upscale development surrounded by open space. This development also incorporated design features found in the surrounding neighborhood.


West Bradford Township website: www.westbradford.org

Transfer of Development Rights: A Flexible Option for Redirecting Growth in Pennsylvania, Brandywine Conservancy (2003).