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Westfield, Massachusetts


The City of Westfield, population 37,300 (2000), lies south of Interstate 90, ten miles west of Springfield in Western Massachusetts. Farming still occurs in this region and the area is known for its rural scenery.

Westfield adopted a TDR ordinance designed to achieve the following purposes: a) preserve farmland, water supply resources and rural areas; b) focus development in areas served by public services and infrastructure; and c) preserve the rural, historic and agricultural character of the community. This ordinance was adopted in 2003 and was not profiled in Beyond Takings and Givings.


The Westfield ordinance defines sending areas as parcels zoned Rural Residential and, regardless of zoning district, all parcels within 400 feet of a public drinking water wellhead. Development rights are defined as the number of residential or commercial/industrial lots that would be permitted on the sending parcel under the applicable zoning and subdivision regulations. To determine the number of lots eligible for transfer, 50 percent of the site area identified as wetlands is subtracted from the sending site’s gross acreage. Another five percent of the remaining acreage is deducted to account for land which would be used for roads if the parcel were developed. This remainder is divided by the minimum lot size allowed by zoning for the proposed sending site.

Transferable development rights are created by recording of Conservation Restrictions or Agricultural Preservation Restrictions. These easements may be released according to provisions contained in Massachusetts state law, which include the following:

a) The restriction must be repurchased from the City by the landowner at its then fair market value, and funds returned to the special revenue account for development rights.
b) The restriction shall only be released by its holder if the land is no longer deemed suitable for conservation, agricultural or horticultural purposes and unless approved by a two-thirds vote of both branches of the Massachusetts general court.

Receiving areas are properties within the Business A, Business B, Industrial A and Industrial Park districts that are served by public sewer and water. Developers wanting to use the TDR provisions must apply to the Planning Board for a Special Permit using an application that illustrates the sending site, receiving site and the number of development rights proposed for transfer.

For each residential lot foregone at a sending site, a developer can receive 2,000 square feet of additional commercial or industrial floor area and commensurate increases in lot coverage and/or building height as well as commensurate decreases in front setback. The requirements pertaining to a TDR receiving site project vary depending on which of the four zones the receiving site is located in. For example, the use of TDR in the Business A district allows building coverage to go from 25 percent to 50 percent, height to go from 30 feet to 45 feet and front setback to go from 30 feet to 10 feet. Receiving site projects are required to provide special design features such as shared parking and pedestrian/bicyclist amenities. The Planning Board can also consider whether or not the receiving site project is compatible with the historic character and scale of buildings in the neighborhood and the City as a whole in terms of building materials and architectural design.

If receiving site developers are unable to negotiate the preservation of actual sending sites, they may use an alternate procedure spelled out in the code. Specifically, they must document their efforts to preserve a sending site and make a cash contribution to the City to be used for purchasing development restrictions. The code states that the contribution is determined by the Table of Exchange Standards for Transfer of Development Rights, which is based on the average cost of development restrictions over the past three years as determined by the Conservation Commission.