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The Stafford County Planning Commission voted 5-2 on Aug. 28 to expand a Transfer of Development Rights program as a "pilot," focusing on a "receiving area" in the Brooke Urban Development Area. UDAs became optional development tools on July 1, 2012, under SB 274 and HB 869. Furthermore, residents of a "receiving area" may not want the higher density development and its tribulations.
The commission seems to be attempting to make preservation more equitable and politically palatable for the Board of Supervisors member who selected them for the Planning Commission (with a $10,000 annual stipend) by compensating Crow's Nest Harbor subdivision lot owners with this laughable TDR (let's call it "Troubled Development Region") program. Many "professional" planners tout TDR programs as a way to take the politics out of zoning to implement land use controls that attempt to provide for a public good.
TDR programs do not reduce the need for zoning designed to balance individual property rights against the good of society. Supposedly with TDR programs, it is the "market" that makes land use and density allocations where property owners whose development rights have been limited in order to preserve some societal good are compensated by tax abatement.
This TDR program is destined to become a liability since land use needs to change over time. In fact, eight property owners in Crow's Nest filed a lawsuit on March 22 against Stafford County and the Board of Supervisors. Residents, real estate professionals, lawyers, assessors, and especially "selected" planners must be educated in TDR process.
A TDR program is potentially a powerful tool. However, in its 30-year history, it seems to have made little headway in local communities across the country.
Paul J. Waldowski