Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces


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Saving Land Without The Tax Bite Takes TDRs

August 1st, 2001 by

Saving Land, Sparing Taxpayers

  • New Jersey announced last week that it will spend $230 million to purchase another 58,000 acres of farmland and open space, and preserve these from development.
  • In March, Burlington County preserved 640 acres of farm property at no cost to taxpayers by using “transfer of development rights,” or TDR.
  • Used successfully by other states to preserve open land, TDR can be used today only in Burlington County and in the Pinelands, where it has preserved some 20,000 acres.
  • Expanding today’s TDR program to municipalities statewide is endorsed by all three gubernatorial candidates: Mayor Jim McGreevey, Democratic candidate; Sen. Bill Schluter, Independent candidate; and Mayor Bret Schundler, Republican candidate. The Assembly Local Government Committee is scheduled to discuss the municipal impacts of TDR on August 17.

There’s not enough money to buy all the open land New Jerseyans would like to see preserved.  We need other alternatives, and one of the most successful is Transfer  
of Development Rights, or TDR.

TDR works like this: owners of property to be preserved agree to sell the rights to develop their land, at market rates, to another land owner whose property is better suited for development.  In Burlington County, owners of farm property in Chesterfield announced they would sell their right to develop 150 housing units to the developer-owners of 56 acres in an area of town better situated for development.

The TDR seller gets the market price for units allowed under current zoning, and continues own the land, now permanently restricted from development.  The TDR buyer gets additional development rights at their site.  The community at large gains by seeing its open spaces preserved, without taxpayer investment, and development  
directed to sites the community feels are best suited for growth.

TDR can operate on either a local or inter-municipal level.  New Jersey Future urges the State to give municipalities the right to preserve land using TDR. (See “20 Ways to Move NJ Toward a More Prosperous, Just and Healthy Future,” on-line at 

Facts Contact:
B. Tim Evans, NJF Research Director
timevansatnjfuturedotorg  (timevansatnjfuturedotorg)  


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