West Windsor Township, population 27,165 (2010), is located in central New Jersey, between Trenton and New Brunswick. In 1990, a private golf course in West Windsor was sold and the new owner wanted to convert the land into a subdivision of 100 homes. The Township wanted to save the golf course. So a transfer of development rights ordinance was developed specifically for this property. It allowed the owner to sever the development rights from the golf course. But, because the City did not have a receiving site capable of accommodating an additional 100 homes, the ordinance allowed the units from the sending site to be converted into an equivalent amount of office development for use within designated commercial zones. This ordinance was initially adopted in 1990 and changed only once in 1991.
West Windsor’s Recreation Preservation Development Credits code section is designed to preserve existing recreational open space lands within the R-2 residential zoning district by increasing permitted floor area in the Research/Office/Manufacturing 1 and 2 zoning districts located along a major highway. The sending site must be at least 100 acres in size and designated on the Township’s Community Facilities Master Plan as existing “Semi-Public -Recreational/Open Space.” The amount of development available to be transferred from the sending site is determined by the Planning Board based on a hypothetical subdivision layout which conforms to all zoning and subdivision requirements.
The sending site is preserved via the recording of a deed imposing a restriction on the land for open space or recreational uses in perpetuity. After this deed is recorded, the established development credits can be used on the designated receiving sites at any time over the next 18 years. The receiving site must be at least 20 acres and the receiving site project must be a planned development. Projects which use these credits must be used for permitted (as opposed to conditionally-permitted) uses and must still meet all most development non-density requirements. However, some exceptions are permitted. For example, the three-story height limits in the receiving zones can be exceeded but only to the extent needed to accommodate the transferred floor area and not more than four stories or 55 feet of building height. Following a public hearing, the Township Planning Board determines whether the receiving site is able to receive part or all of the proposed development transfer.
The program achieved its goal of preserving the golf course. The property owner removed the development credits from the sending site and it was sold with a deed restriction stipulating that it can only be operated as a golf course. The development credits severed from the sending site represent 300,000 square feet of commercial floor area. As allowed by the ordinance, these credits were initially held rather than used immediately on a project. In a January 2001 update, Community Development Director Samuel Surtees reported that the golf course preservation described above was the only use of the Township’s TDR program as of that date.