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Planning Division
101-A Mounts Bay Rd.
Williamsburg, VA 23185

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P: 757-253-6685
F: 757-253-6822
HOTLINE: 757-259-4990




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Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs)


transfer of development rights image

Thank you to all who participated in the Transfer of Development Rights Public Forum.  If you were unable to attend, you can still see the PowerPoint presentation and complete the surveys below to give your feedback.  Completed surveys can be e-mailed to, mailed to 101-A Mounts Bay Rd., Williamsburg, VA 23185, or faxed to 757-253-6822.

What is Transfer of Development Rights? Transfer of development rights is a way to shift the development rights from one property and transfer them for use on another property.  The property that the rights are removed from is called the “sending area” and is usually an area targeted for preservation.  The property that the rights are transferred to is called the “receiving area” and is usually an area targeted for growth with access to roads, water, and sewer.  The owner who sells development rights from his/her property retains property ownership and certain rights to use the property, such as farming or building their home, but voluntarily puts a development-restricting easement on their land in return for compensation.

The sale of these development rights through the market generates the compensation with minimal use of County funds.  

Why is James City County looking at a Transfer of Development Rights program? The 2009 Comprehensive Plan recommended looking at the feasibility of a TDR program for the County as an additional growth management tool in the Rural Lands.  This feasibility study will look at ways to provide incentives for residents, landowners, and business to shift potential development from Rural Lands to areas with roads, water, sewer, and public facilities that are planned to serve development.  Planning staff is working with the firm Design, Community, and Environment (DC&E) to find out whether this type of program would work in the County by collecting public input, conducting research, and analyzing the local real estate market.  The feasibility study is expected to be completed in late spring of this year.  The Board of Supervisors will then determine next steps regarding development in the Rural Lands.

How could a TDR program impact me? If James City County pursues a TDR program, the effects could be County-wide. 

What are some of the potential benefits of a TDR program?

  • Gives landowners in sending areas an additional option to realize the financial value of their land without developing it. 
  • Maintains open space, farms, views, and community character in rural sending areas.
  • Provides a new and creative way to develop properties in the receiving areas.
  • Promotes smart growth by concentrating development near available schools, libraries, fire stations, and water and sewer service.

What are some of the potential impacts of a TDR program?

  • Increases concentration of residential or commercial development in receiving areas in the County (which will likely be located in the Primary Service Area and could include the Economic Opportunity area -see the Comprehensive Plan Land Use Map to view these areas.
  • May increase costs associated with improving infrastructure. 
  • Does not guarantee large, connected expanses of preserved open space because preservation is largely tied to an owner’s willingness to sell development rights.

Where can I learn more about TDR?

What other localities have implemented a TDR program?

TDR has been allowed in Virginia for just a short period of time and only one locality has developed a TDR program.  On the other hand, TDR has been available and in practice in many other localities across the nation for a longer time period. Here is a short list of resources in other localities with a TDR program:


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