Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)
Case Study

McKenna Ridge Road
Falmouth, MA

The Town of Falmouth is a coastal community rich in natural resources including marine recharge areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC's), and aquifers for municipal water supply. As with many communities in Massachusetts, local decision makers realized that considerable tracts of open space were zoned for residential sprawl in many of these resource areas. As part of a suite of zoning based tools targeted toward more efficient use of undeveloped land, Falmouth adopted one of the Commonwealth's first TDR Bylaws.

Aerial graphic depicting sending and receiving areas.
The Program

The Falmouth TDR Bylaw was originally accepted at Town Meeting in 1985 and has been amended several times since then. The Bylaw establishes "donor" and "receiving" districts based on a variety of criteria such as allowable use and the size of the parcel(s) in either district. Donor districts were originally established based upon existing Chapter 61A parcels, recharge areas to sensitive surface waters or the contributing zones to the public water supply. Since then, the Bylaw has been amended to include ACEC's and the Coastal Resources Overlay in the donor district areas. Receiving areas are listed in the zoning bylaw and include those districts already zoned for residential use.

The program can only function as part of a subdivision application and adds a Special Permit requirement. However, this additional requirement is streamlined by having the Planning Board named as the permitting authority for both requirements. Furthermore, incentives are added in the form of density bonuses. These bonuses are awarded according to a detailed schedule listed in the Bylaw. Bonuses vary between 20 to 40 percent depending on which area is sending and which area is receiving.

Houses along road in subdivision.McKenna Ridge Road

This subdivision is one of several success stories in Falmouth implemented through the TDR Program. The donor parcel identified in this instance was located in the Water Resource Protection District and covered approximately 12.5 acres. Yield calculations developed for the parcel showed that six lots could reasonably be developed under the standard subdivision process. Because the developer was using the TDR Program, he was granted a 20% increase on this base yield value, bringing the yield value up to eight lots.

The receiving subdivision was a 16.4 acre parcel just outside the donor district boundary in an area already well developed for residential use. The site plan development process showed that seven lots would have been a reasonable expectation for this parcel under standard zoning provisions. The result, therefore, is a 15 lot subdivision that uses approximately half the space normally required under existing regulations. Furthermore, more than 12 acres of open space in the Water Protection District has been permanently protected.