With such rapid growth and development in Alberta, many municipalities are seeking ways to support growth and balance it with conservational and economic factors. These factors include conserving environmentally significant, agricultural or historically important parcels and sharing the economic benefit of development between a greater number of rate payers. Transferable Development Credits (TDC) have been enabled as a voluntary municipal planning tool that may help with this challenge.
In its most basic form, a TDC program involves a TDC conservation area(s) and a TDC development area(s). TDC conservation areas are lands identified by the municipality to have value—in their current state—that may be lost if the land is developed. TDC development areas are areas where the municipality is willing to allow development beyond base zoning to support landowners conserving lands in the conservation area.
A TDC program functions when a municipality assigns development ‘credits’ to parcels in the TDC conservation area. These credits are available (on a voluntary basis) to be sold by the landowner to developers in the TDC development areas. The credit transfers allow development beyond the base zoning in the TDC development areas. They require a title restriction to protect the important landscape values in the TDC conservation areas.
The TDC tool can be used in urban areas (e.g. transferring building-height potential to protect low-rise historical buildings), rural areas (e.g. transferring development potential to protect prime agricultural land) or even between them (e.g. transferring housing density into the city to protect upstream watersheds).
In October 2009, the Transfer of Development Credits tool was officially enabled legislatively through the Alberta Land Stewardship Act after much pioneering effort by municipalities. At least seven municipalities have been actively exploring the concept. One, the MD of Bighorn, has created a program through changes in its MDP and Land Use Bylaw, and adoption of an Area Structure Plan. The municipalities of the Beaver Hills Initiative have also been actively investigating the potential of the tool for the Cooking Lake Moraine area. Strathcona County is actively exploring its use.
Currently, the Province’s Land Use Secretariat and Municipal Affairs are developing the regulation to support TDCs, and are consulting with some municipalities. They have been in contact with both the AAMDC and the AUMA once for feedback, and will be in contact again in February. They expect the regulation to be created in 2011. For more information about Transfer of Development Credits in Alberta, click here.
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