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October 03, 2006

Slutzky unveils Transfer of Development Rights initiative

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Slutzkytdr20061003On October 3, 2006, Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio District) held a press conference to launch what he describes as a new rural area protection initiative based on the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR).  A TDR program for Albemarle would allow rural area landowners to voluntarily sell any unused potential housing lots as credits to landowners building in designated receiving areas.  The rural land would be protected because the development lots would be permanently eliminated once purchased.  A landowner acquiring development rights under a TDR typically does so in exchange for the ability to build more housing than would be allowed under the land's existing zoning.  The receiving areas are typically located near growth areas with adequate public facilities and infrastructure.

Mr. Slutzky was joined at his press conference by representatives from the Farm Bureau, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the Free Enterprise Forum, and the Piedmont Environmental Council.  While none of these organizations were ready to endorse the proposal in its current form, all expressed support for having the Board of Supervisors carefully examine a Transfer of Development Rights program as a rural protection strategy.

Download David Slutzky's media release

Mr. Slutzky's TDR proposal includes the following major components:

  • The expansion of Albemarle's growth areas from 5% of all the County land to 6% to create a receiving area for the transfered development rights.  Mr. Slutzky describes this as a boundary area, adjacent to parts of Albemarle's existing growth areas, where development would be allowed by-right (i.e. no rezonings, no proffers, and no requirements to follow the County's Neighborhood Model).
  • A rezoning of rural land to a minimum of one house per 50 acres (current zoning allows one house per a minimum of 21 acres). However, with a change in state law, a grandfathering system would protect any existing development rights such that they could be transferred into the TDR program AFTER the rural area downzoning.
  • A bonus density reward for the landowner purchasing the development rights.  For every rural area development right purchased a developer could convert it to two housing units in the boundary area (or three housing units if determined to be "affordable housing" units).
  • Mr. Slutzky argues that these aspects of a TDR program would create a market-based system that would protect more rural land and generate new property tax revenues.

Podcast produced by Charlottesville Tomorrow * Player by Odeo

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20061003-Slutzky-TDRs.mp3


Press Conference

  • 01:53 -- Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio District) starts the press conference.  [Note: During the press conference, the TDR proposal is not described in detail.  One approach listeners can take is to jump to his interview on WINA at the 35 min 15 sec part of this podcast to hear Mr. Slutzky’s outline of the initiative]
  • 02:54 – Mr. Slutzky describes the challenge of protecting Albemarle’s rural countryside and the purpose of Albemarle’s designated growth areas.
  • 04:14 -- Mr. Slutzky describes the rural area protection strategies considered by the County (Mountaintop protection, phasing, clustering, and improving the development review process) and the lack of support for phasing and clustering by the Board of Supervisors.
  • 05:05 -- Mr. Slutzky indicates he anticipated the failure of phasing and clustering proposals and that was why he started several months ago to develop an initiative related to the Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs).
  • 07:20 – Mr. Slutzky introduces the TDR concept and indicates he will bring this before the full Board of Supervisors in their meeting tomorrow.
  • 10:40 – Mr. Slutzky invites Joe Jones to make comments on behalf of the local Farm Bureau.
  • 11:40 -- Morgan Butler makes comments on behalf of the Southern Environmental law Center.
  • 12:08 -- Neil Williamson makes comments on behalf of the Free Enterprise Forum.
  • 12:47 -- Jeff Werner makes comments on behalf of Piedmont Environmental Council.


  • 14:30 -- Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Brian Wheeler interviews David Slutzky.  Question #1: Could you describe the need to expand the County’s designated growth areas by 1% to support this proposal? [Note: The growth area would grow from 5% of Albemarle today to 6% with the creation of a TDR boundary area to receive development rights.  The actual percent change in land in the growth area would be a 20% increase]
  • 15:29 – Mr. Slutzky responds, “There is a sacrifice of 1% of the County and it is arguably tantamount to expanding the growth area in some ways by 20%, having said that, if it protects 94% of our County, really I think it’s quite worth that.”
  • 15:45 -- Question #2: Is this an indication that we don’t have enough room for growth in our existing growth areas? “I don’t think that’s the case at all.  I think the existing growth areas are sufficient to accommodate growth for many years to come.  That said, there will likely come a point somewhere down the road where a future Board would have to consider increasing the growth area somewhat.  All I am trying to do here is anticipate that and identify a couple of places that are right up against the existing growth area, where there is already existing infrastructure… where it would make sense to have an expansion of the growth area.  Do it now so that as a result we have created a vibrant market to receive these rural area development rights and that makes the TDR program work.”
  • 16:30 -- Question #3: Some leaders of the Chamber of Commerce have described this as a watershed moment, a Supervisor has brought the Chamber members a market-driven solution to growth and development challenges.  How would you describe the buy-in by the Chamber, the environmental community, and the development community?
  • 17:20 -- Question #4: Do you think that the Supervisors who opposed phasing and clustering as strategies to protect our fields, farms and forests are likely to accept a rezoning of the countryside that would change division rights to 1 lot on a minimum of 50 acres?
  • 18:21 -- Question #5: What are the changes you would have to get made by the General Assembly for Albemarle’s version of TDRs?  Has anyone agreed to sponsor that legislation?  Mr. Slutzky describes the change to the definition of “development rights” that would have to be made in state law.  This change would allow the “grandfathering” of existing development rights such that they could be transferred into the TDR program AFTER the rural area downzoning. 
  • 20:26 – Question #6: Does that mean that existing division rights won’t be lost with a rezoning of the County’s rural areas?  Mr. Slutzky explains that the “grandfathered rights” lost by downzoning could not be used in the rural area, but they could be voluntarily sold into the TDR program for use in the growth area.
  • 22:43 -- Question #7: If the boundary area will allow by-right development, how will the community ensure it is quality growth that comes to those areas if we cannot get developer proffers or the model neighborhoods detailed in our comprehensive plan?
    “One interesting thing does happen when you move those development rights.  Currently those [rural area] development rights are not being taxed....When they move into the boundary area something happens to them.  We know how many there are.  We know what price was paid for them, so we know what they are worth, and they are not in a land use tax situation so we can collect property tax revenues from them….I predict that there will be some significant tax revenues brought in through this program that will serve to be an alternative to the proffer system...”
  • 24:53 -- Question #8: How quickly would you like to see TDRs implemented in Albemarle?
  • Slutzkytdr20061003b 26:20 -- Reactions from Joe Jones representing the Farm Bureau.  On the issue of property values and family division rights, Mr. Jones commented that, “Property values, in recent years particularly, have acquired a high value for their ability to grow houses versus an agricultural commodity.  When I was a youngster that value wasn’t much difference on a per acre basis.  Now there is a tremendous amount of difference on it on a per acre basis….We as rural land owners are just as deserving of that value as anybody who wins the lottery or anything else.  So it is going to come down to being about the money.  Are we going to be able to recoup that housing market value in selling that development [right]?”
  • 29:43 -- Reactions from Morgan Butler representing the Southern Environmental Law Center.
  • 30:29 -- Interview by WINA AM 1070’s Jay James on the Charlottesville Live program recorded immediately following the press conference.
  • 31:28 – Mr. Slutzky outlines the background behind the TDR initiative and other approaches for protecting the rural countryside in Albemarle County.
  • 35:15 – This may be the best place to start the podcast as Mr. Slutzky describes in his own words the merits and components of a market-based TDR program for Albemarle.
  • 41:44 -- Caller Question: Tom Loach (Crozet resident) asks where the money is going to come from to support infrastructure needs of an expanded growth area and about changes to existing mechanisms like the Acquisition of Conservation Easements (ACE) Program and the land use tax subsidy program.

Brian Wheeler


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