Hardy Plumbing
June 28, 2006

Town To Centralize TDR Program


At last week's work session, members of the Southampton Town Board talked TDRs. And the result may be a new, centralized transfer of developments rights procedure aimed toward streamlining the process for residents and making TDRs easier to understand, faster and less costly.

According to Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney, until this point, there have been a number of components comprising the TDR program. The goal, he said, is to "weave together" the individual strands of the program and create "one central clearinghouse" that would bring all of the separate pieces together.

At the work session, an in-depth history of Southampton's transfer of development rights program was outlined, going back to the early 1980s when the town had a TDR program for old filed map subdivisions.

In the days before zoning, many applications were filed with the county for small lots. As zoning emerged on the East End, subdivision building permits required a minimum of 10,000 square feet. If an applicant had 8000 square feet, for example, that individual would be allowed to purchase another lot on the same subdivision and transfer the development potential over to the 8000 square feet, bringing it up to the required 10,000. Development rights on the other parcel purchased would be extinguished, effectively preserving open space.

Over the years, said Heaney, the town has instituted a number of other programs, including a farmland TDR initiative and more recently, instituting TDR receiving areas and uses, for development in appropriate areas. The town adopted two new zones to create diversity in hamlets and residential areas through planned development districts (PDD). Examples are apartments over stores or mixed uses and hamlet densities.

Under the current code, additional density can be achieved by a developer through the transfer of development rights or Pine Barrens credits, helping to ensure that there were no substantial increases of dwelling units or population within the same school district because development has been directed in order to channel growth and preserve ecologically sensitive land.

The town has also adopted an aquifer protection overlay district, and an affordable housing overlay district, allowing for multi-family units. Finally, a Pine Barrens credits program was established.

The problem, said Heaney, was there was "no centralized mechanism" to accommodate all the various strands of the town's TDR program.

To that end, Heaney proposed a "fully vetted TDR program that begins with a development right determination process."

Once yield is determined, said the supervisor, an individual would be able to work with the town to locate a purchaser for the development rights, the value of which would "fluctuate with the marketplace."

The new, centralized TDR program would include a comprehensive handbook entitled "User's Guide to the Southampton TDR Program," explaining, in layman's terms, what lands are eligible for TDR, what TDR certificates are and how to obtain them, legal documents required in the TDR process, how to sell TDRs, and how and where to redeem TDRs.

The handbook would include a flow chart to determine yield and explain how a clearinghouse would function, complete with "what ifs."

In order to initiate the proposed changes, Heaney has proposed code amendments, addressing both Chapter 330, the town's zoning code, and Chapter 244, which relates to development rights.

"The purpose," said Heaney, "is to eliminate redundancy and clearly tie together the strings of the TDR program," weaving together all components into a comprehensive whole.

Currently, the program is not user- friendly, said Heaney, with no central repository of information, three different procedures for taking rights off sending parcels, located in three different sections of the town code, and in some programs, landowners required to own both sending and receiving parcels, a very unlikely scenario.

Under the user-friendly program, landowners would receive TDR certificates, which would be freely transferable and used like currency.

Also included would be a TDR registry, a database of buyers and sellers of development rights, updated monthly and located on the town website, with copies available in town hall.

The town, said Heaney, "would act as a clearinghouse, a broker, to establish public policy goals" such as preservation of drinking water.

The town would bring buyer and seller together, "to help facilitate smart growth in the town," and promote public policy, said Heaney.

The supervisor said the changes evolved out of the 1999 master plan; he has been working with the planning department for two years to create a new system that would benefit the public.

The board supported the amendments to the code; the matter is expected to go to public hearing within 45 days.

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