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AUGUST 4, 1997

Local News

County proposing development rights transfers

  by Andrew Walgamott
   King County is hoping to locate new development closer to urban areas with a program that will allow rural landowners to sell their development rights.
   The Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program, still in review, will allow rural farm and forest owners to sell their development rights to builders in semi-urban areas. Development rights are defined as a property's unused development potential. A property with one house on a 20-acre parcel zoned RA-5 (rural, one house per five acres) has the potential to support four homes. The three unbuilt homes is the development potential and thus the development right sales opportunity.
   Kamuron Gurol, King County Department of Natural Resources project manager, thinks that once the program gets rolling, rights may fetch as much as $5,000-$45,000.
   TDR would work by designating unincorporated areas of the county such as upper Bear Creek and the Snoqualmie Valley as sending areas, places where development rights can be sold from. Areas such as Hollywood Hill, Kenmore and Duvall would be marked as receiving areas, where developers will be allowed to purchase additional rights for housing or apartments.
   Basically it works like this: our rural land owner with his 20-acre parcel will be allowed to sell, say, three of those potential development rights to a developer. The developer, who could only build six homes on a semi-urban lot in a receiving area, will then be allowed to build nine. Most urban areas are allowed to increase density up to 50 percent.
   Rural receiving areas such as Duvall can have a 100 percent increase in density from such development rights sales.
   Rights sales would be one-time opportunities for properties. The decision of one owner to sell the rights would be effective for subsequent owners of the same parcel, according to Gurol. He said the focus of the program is on protecting rural farms and forests. Gurol also said TDR recognizes that rural landowners have a development right and rather than regulating that right away, offers them a way to make money. He stressed that the program was voluntary and that the county had no plan to require rural landowners to sell their rights.
   Gurol said the program had been on the books since 1993 but that no mechanism was in place yet to make it work. He added that TDR has been successful in California.
   The county may not stop with swapping development rights in unincorporated areas.
   "An even better idea would be for cities to become receiving areas," Gurol said.
   Written comments on the plan can be mailed to TDR Program, King County Department of Natural Resources, Resource Lands, 506 Second Avenue, Suite 720, Seattle WA, 98104. Comments are due August 12.