Wicomico, population 34,399 (2010), is located 80 miles southeast of Washington DC on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. In September 2004, the County adopted a Transfer of Development Rights ordinance that in December 2011 appeared in Section 225-58 of the County Zoning Code.
This TDR ordinance aims to motivate preservation of farmland in the County’s A-1 Agricultural-Rural District and Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Districts within Wicomico County. Sending sites are allocated TDRs based on the location of the site proposed to receive the TDRs: one TDR per two sending site acres when transferred to a designated growth area versus one TDR per six acres when the receiving site is zoned A-1 and is not within a designated growth area. Owners who choose to preserve their land record an instrument of transfer preventing the sending site from subdivision and allowing only agricultural uses including farm dwellings. Sending area landowners can transfer TDRs to intermediaries prior to a subsequent transfer to a receiving site however for taxation purposes the TDRs are considered appurtenant to the sending site until they are approved for use at a receiving site and transferred to the County Council.
Parcels cannot receive TDRs if they are located within critical areas, the Paleochannel Overlay District or the Airport Overlay District. As mentioned above, the allocation ratio is higher when TDRs are transferred to growth areas, meaning areas designated in the Wicomico Comprehensive Plan as town, village or metro core. The use of TDR allows developers in these growth areas to build up to the maximum density of development allowed on the zoning adopted for each property. For example, in the R-15 zone, TDR allows PUDs to exceed the baseline of 10,000 square feet of minimum lot area per dwelling unit and achieve 6,000 square feet of minimum lot area per dwelling unit. Comparable reductions in minimum lot size per dwelling unit are also offered to projects that use TDR in the R-8 and R-20 zones.
As mentioned above, sites in the A-1 zone can serve as receiving as well as sending sites although the allocation ratio is lower (one TDR per 6 acres) for receiving areas that are zoned A-1 and not designated as a growth area. Receiving sites zoned A-1 can use TDR to achieve a type and intensity of development allowed to the Village Conservation (V-C) zone. Specifically, TDR can be used to exceed the baseline of one dwelling per 5 acres and achieve the higher density one dwelling unit per 3 acres.