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What the Heck is a TDR? … And Why You Should Care.

If you’ve been following developments regarding the Snyderville Basin General Plan, you may have come across the concept of receiving areas. Receiving areas are parcels of land that are designated to have more building on them than would be normally allowed in order to concentrate development density. The flip side of receiving areas are called sending areas. Sending areas are parcels of land where an owner may have the right to build something but the local government would prefer they don’t. So, TDR programs enable a land owner to trade their current development rights in a sending area for TDRs. Those TDRs can then be sold to developers. Developers buy them because they can use TDRs to build with more density in receiving areas. Therefore, they can build more than if they relied on the normal zoning.

For example, perhaps someone owns 80 acres of land near Round Valley. The land is zoned for 1 house (unit) per 20 acres. So, the owner could build 4 houses there. The county then says, “We’d prefer to keep that all open space. Let’s make it a sending area.” The owner can then decide if they want to sell the right to build 4 houses for TDRs. If they do, the owner will deed restrict the land for “open space” and in return get TDRs. They then find a developer who wants to buy the TDRs so the developer can build at higher density at one of the Basin’s receiving areas, like Jeremy Ranch. That way, instead of building say 10 houses in Jeremy Ranch they can build 200 condos. It benefits the land owner because they are able to profit from the land. It benefits developers because they can build more than is normally allowed in one of the receiving areas. It can benefit citizens because certain land is protected from development.

We can see the draw of the TDR concept, as it does seem to be a way to protect land from development but also provides land owners with compensation. However, TDR programs can be overly complicated and sometimes don’t achieve the desired effect. Our issue with getting behind a TDR program in the Basin right now is that we don’t have enough information about it. It’s not enough for us to look at a land use map and see that lower Silver Creek could be a receiving area. What are the sending areas that would be traded for this land. Is it a worthwhile trade? What are the TDR’s rules. Will it be an even exchange on parcels or something like 16-1? How much development will get packed in to each receiving area? How do we prevent corruption of the process? We’re fearful that if we even support the idea of TDRs that it may become a run away locomotive and there won’t be a chance to stop it. Any time there is a lot of money to be made, its important to slow down and make sure that it is both done right and the expected outcome is desirable. We also want to be sure that strict ordinances are in place to ensure that 20 years down the line, program details aren’t forgotten and we have a mess on our hands.

We look forward to hearing more about the specifics of any proposed TDR plan in the Basin, but until then, we find it a hard concept to get behind.



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