What’s Next for TDRs: Subcommittee Looks at Transferable Development Rights Citywide

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Thursday September 26, 2013

South Burlington houses a variety of city committees made up by residents willing to volunteer their time to make a difference in the community. Recently, another committee was added to that dedicated list. On September 10th, the Planning Commission officially formed a subcommittee charged with researching the possibility of expanding the Transferable Development Rights (TDR) program citywide. 

A Transferable Development Rights program is a planning process used to control land use and ensure effective urban development and land conservation. To conserve some of the city’s precious open land, this program gives certain landowners the right to sell (transfer) their development rights (known as “sending districts”) to developers to work within “receiving districts,” or districts more appropriately designated for higher density development.

In 1992, South Burlington adopted the Southeast Quadrant District (SEQ) with a TDR program, and it was last updated in 2006 after the city implemented Interim Zoning (IZ) for one year to assess development in the SEQ.

Several committees and groups have expressed interest in the topic of the TDR program as it relates to South Burlington’s vision to be regulated under Form Based Code currently for City Center and eventually citywide; therefore, a subcommittee would invite the perspective of people from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise on the matter. One of the Interim Zoning committees, the Sustainable Agriculture/Food Security Task Force, made a formal recommendation in its final report to “review and expand the Transferable Development Rights provisions in the Land Development Regulations (LDRs).” Another IZ committee, the Affordable Housing Committee, also expressed deep interest in this topic.

“It seems difficult to have a density for TDR transfer without having a density bonus for affordable housing,” explained Larry Michaels, Affordable Housing Committee member and Chief Operating Officer of the O’Brien Brothers Agency, during a Planning Commission/Form Based Code Committee joint meeting on September 5th. “I think this subcommittee is excellent because it sort of stops us in our tracks if we’re going to be talking about inclusionary zoning and if there’s going to be a subcommittee talking about density bonuses. The subcommittee should start quickly so that we can understand our charge going forward and how we’re going to effectively deliver affordable housing to the community,” said Michaels.

Some of the suggested names on the list that were collected at the meeting were Bill Gilbert (Form Based Code), Will Raap (Form Based Code), Larry Michaels (Affordable Housing), Eric Farrell (Affordable Housing), Rosanne Greco (Sustainable Agriculture/City Council), and up to three landowners who have either used the TDR program or have TDRs they haven’t used. There are a couple of committee members with a legal background as well.

Together, they will tease out answers to questions that will likely arise due to Form Based Code. For instance, Form Based Code typically does not have TDRs or density caps. Consultant Paul Dreher of Dreher Designs will be available to provide group members with input based on his experience.

“I have done some research [on this], and I have language from other communities that have done Form Based Code that have TDRs and some density caps; I can share that with the group,” Dreher said.

The Planning Commission officially decided on September 10th that the group would be formed as a subcommittee under the Commission; it will follow Open Meeting Laws for public access and warning, and it will be led by Commission Vice Chair Tracey Harrington.

With that, Harrington made a motion to form a subcommittee under the Planning Commission to study the implications of expanding the TDR program city-wide and make a recommendation back to the Planning Commission; the subcommittee shall include the current names on the list and up to three landowners who have either used the TDR program or have TDRs they cannot use. The group shall meet in the evenings. Riehle seconded, and the vote was unanimous.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent