Farmland Conservation 101

Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)

A TDR program is a voluntary, incentive-based, and market-driven approach to preserve land and steer development growth away from lands that have high value for other uses.

A TDR program is based on free-market principles and prices that would motivate landowner and developer participation. Rural landowners realize economic return through the sale of development rights to private developers who are able to build in designated unincorporated urban areas and cities.

A market in development rights allows rural landowners to receive financial compensation without having to sell or fully develop their land. TDR programs enable the transfer of development potential from one parcel of land to another— developers “buy” development rights from agricultural land owners to be used for growth in designated development zones.

 

Conservation Easements and Purchase of Development Rights (PDR)

A conservation easement is a deed restriction that landowners voluntarily place on part or all of their land. The easement limits development in order to protect the land’s natural resources.

An agricultural conservation easement is an easement specifically designed for agricultural land. Agricultural conservation easements can be donated, usually to a non-profit land trust, or sold to a public agency or qualified conservation organization through a PDR program. Some state’s PDR programs are administered by the state Department of Agriculture.

The federal Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program provides cost-share assistance to states, cities, and land trusts to help fund the purchase of development rights. Landowners can also combine the sale and donation of an agricultural conservation easement through a bargain sale. Through a bargain sale, a landowner sells an easement at less than its fair market value, taking a charitable deduction on the donated portion of the easement. Whether to donate or to sell an easement, or how much of a donation to make as part of a bargain sale, is often a complex decision that is influenced by a landowner’s income level, tax bracket, cost basis in the property, business and/or personal objectives, and the availability of town, state, or federal funding for the purchase of development rights.

 

Agricultural Production Districts           

Agriculture Production Districts are specific geographic areas, regardless of zoning, where farming would be actively supported by the county over the long term.  In the 2009 report released by the Clark County Agriculture Preservation Advisory Committee, a goal of maintaining or aggregating contiguous blocks of land 100-150 acres in size was identified as a desirable goal. An Agricultural Production District may encompass one, or several, of such blocks. These should be considered priority areas for use of tools such as PDR and/or TDR and cluster development concepts to maintain or aggregate larger contiguous blocks of land dedicated primarily to agricultural activities.


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