Resource Conservation

Transfer of Development Rights Programs

Transfer of Development Rights, or TDR, programs are a great vehicle for preserving rural land and encouraging development in existing communities while leveraging private funds. Following the administration's lead, Planning is serving rural communities in ways that are not a one-size-fits-all approach. Improving the quality of life in rural areas means responding to their needs and helping each community shape its future in a way that reflects local values and presents opportunities to flourish.

Through TDR programs, which are voluntary, developers buy development rights from owners of rural land within designated sending areas, which county governments have identified for preservation. A perpetual conservation easement is then placed on the property. Developers can use their purchased development rights to build more residences, increase commercial square footage or gain other marketable features in receiving areas, which are located in areas where development and infrastructure are planned and desired.

Planning provides outreach, education, technical assistance and analysis support to local governments on TDR programs. Learn more about the benefits of TDRs and services available from Planning and about county TDR programs in Maryland, including local TDR experts within local government.

Presentation Made by Planning at the 2017 MML Conference: New Ways of Looking at Preservation & Investment

Transfer of Development Rights Committee Convened

Cover of Transfer of Development Rights Program Committee Report

In 2015, Planning created a TDR Committee of representatives from counties that use TDR programs.The Committee issued a report in April 2016 which describes essential program features of TDRs, obstacles to program success, and a series of recommendations developed jointly by Planning and the committee. The report is available for download.

Most counties on the committee indicated that their TDR programs would work much better if development rights could be transferred from rural county land into municipalities, which have the infrastructure in place to accommodate development. As a result, the Committee recommended several approaches to develop interjurisdictional TDR programs between municipalities and counties.

In spring 2017, Planning staff began working with the local jurisdictions to gauge interest in interjurisdictional TDR programs and how they would benefit communities. While researching existing TDR programs across the United States, Planning found traditional density TDR programs but also examples of programs that have expanded to allow the use of TDRs for a variety of commodities (such as for development design flexibility and environmental mitigation). A compilation of the existing programs is also available.


Communities interested in investigating how a TDR program can benefit them are encouraged to contact Planning. Staff is available to assist them in identifying what type of TDR program would be most beneficial; to provide educational presentations and materials; and to provide technical analysis in support of a TDR program. ​​​

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