Farmland preservation through TDR

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) is a voluntary, incentive based program enabled by the MPC that allows landowners to sell development rights from their land to a developer or other interested party who then can use these rights to increase the density at another more appropriate location.

Lower Mac is working through creation of a TDR program as a mechanism for preservation coupled with smarter growth. In our case we are dealing with one owner of two tracts. This strategy makes sense for number of reasons. First some background. In 2012 a prior board created a new zoning ordinance introducing residential uses into commercial zones. This mixing of uses could be considered smart growth. However, in my opinion the ordinance was weak in that regard. The zoning change also granted additional density for nothing. The decision increased the net density of the township. In contrast, with a TDR like the one proposed today we can accomplish desired mixed use development (of a higher quality) but without increasing the net density of the township and also preserving farmland at the same time.

To put it another way, under a zoning code a community has a net maximum amount of units that can built out. In 2012 the BOC at the time made a decision to increase that number. A poor decision in my opinion.

With the proposed TDR we have on the table today, while there would be increased density at one location as part of the TDR, (a location identified as more appropriate based on comprehensive planning) overall we will decrease the townships net density. In fact, our goal is to reduce significantly the total number of residential units that could otherwise be built over two tracts. Therefore, reducing the net density of the township. We are trying to erase more residential density in one location than we are replacing in another. The balance could be made up with farmland easements or neighborhood commercial uses that do not generate or drive traffic.

Goals are simple: Reduce the overall net density of the township through land preservation. Guide walkable mixed use growth to more appropriate locations closer to existing infrastructure. 

Coverage: Lower Macungie pursues farmland preservation, mixed-use village.