Originally published in the January 2008 issue of The Mountaineer.
Preservation advocates recently applauded a move by the Pierce County Council to protect rural land through an exchange with land developers.
The swap consists of allowing owners of farmland, timberland or open space in Pierce County to sell development rights to their land without having it actually developed. The developer purchasing the land earns credits that allow it to increase the density of its holdings in urban areas.
The transfer-of-development rights (TDR) was created to offset the county’s rate of farmland loss to other business development over the past 15 years. As the development value of farmland rises, farmers are increasingly more apt to sell. They rarely sell to other farmers because farmers can’t compete with bids from home or business developers.
Cascade Land Conservancy helped to draft the TDR. A 55-year member of The Mountaineers, Helen Engle, attended the council meeting when the TDR was approved. Engle said that three generations of advocates who have worked for legislation to protect rural lands were represented at the meeting. She started her advocacy at a very young age, she stated, “and now as a great-grandmother, I’m delighted to fi nally cheer the victory.”
Some members of the county council indicated that the program may have to be streamlined as it evolves in order to convince developers to participate and to make sure that cities allow for the increased density in their central districts. However, the council voted unanimously to enact the program.