Loudoun supervisors have asked for a report on the possibility of a transfer of development rights program in the county.
It’s a program that would allow landowners in rural areas to sell credit for the homes they could build on their land to developers in other areas. The county sets up sending and receiving areas for that development density. Transfer of development rights programs been implemented in Loudoun’s neighboring counties and elsewhere across the state and region, but rejected by the county Planning Commission as it works on Loudoun’s new comprehensive plan. Nearby Frederick County and neighboring Montgomery County, MD, both have versions of the program.
In the program, the county government would designate sending and receiving areas for that development density, allowing credits to be sold from rural areas—both protecting those areas from building and providing income for the landowners—and sold to urban areas, allowing developers to build more and concentrate that development.
Supervisors Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin) and Tony R. Buffington (R-Blue Ridge) introduced the proposal.
“We’d like to see as many tools as possible in the toolbox if we’re going to be preserving agriculture, open space, and the rural economy,” Higgins said during the board’s Dec. 4 meeting.
Other supervisors expressed skepticism. Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) said he “probably will not support this program,” but needs more information.
“I am really, really concerned about a couple things,” Buona said. “One is, this can take a lot of control and authority away from the Board of Supervisors… The board could get left out of land use decisions they would otherwise be involved in.”
Supervisors worried about losing control over the density of development in the receiving areas.
“I understand the appeal from the western perspective, but from the suburban district perspective, you’re talking about densities that would exceed what the baseline expectation would be in our comprehensive plan,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “Otherwise this doesn’t work, and that’s a really tough sell.”
“It’s a good idea on paper, but I think we have to find out what it looks like in practice,” said County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large).
The Board of Supervisors’ Transportation and Land Use Program will hear a report on a transfer of development rights program and how it might work in Loudoun at a future meeting.