Ag group considers TDR’s, conservation easements
By Jessica Blomquist
The Agricultural Land Use and Zoning Discussion Group met for the final time Thursday, June 19 to discuss transferable development rights, or TDRs, and conservation easements. Eight citizens attended the meeting to discuss options for land use in the county.
One potential land-control option, a TDR program, would allow landowners to sell their property development rights. These rights would transfer density from one property to be used in another property, called a receiving area, where higher density development is authorized.
TDR legislation has been adopted to Georgia law within the last 10 years. It might be difficult to find areas that would accept higher density developments because many critics of TDRs feel that the program takes away from property values. Because citizens in Morgan County want to preserve the rural quality of the county, it would be difficult to find a part of the community that would want to serve as a receiving area.
“It’s an incredibly complicated program,” said senior planner, Alison Moon. With conservation easements, landowners give up the right to develop their land while retaining ownership rights. Landowners can earn tax benefits by relinquishing their right to mine the property or build future subdivisions or developments to the easement holder.
Moon said that generally two different types of groups can hold easements: governmental entities and nonprofit organizations. “Conservation easements are limited in duration unless the instrument creating it otherwise provides, whereas in a TDR, the law pretty clearly says this is forever,” said Moon.
Conservation easements might fit better with citizens’ interest in retaining rural character in the county. “Conservation easements may accomplish many of the same goals without the obstacles of a TDR,” said Moon.
“It’s about preservation, not accommodation,” said attendee Mary McCauley, who stressed the importance of looking out for the interests of residents who have lived in the county for years.
Moon’s next task, after meeting to hear citizen’s opinions for the past four months, is to take what she has learned from these meetings and continue to revise existing ordinances and regulations so that she can propose new regulations at the end of the year.
Anyone interested in an agricultural co-op will meet on July 10 at 6 p.m. at the old Creamery to learn more about the process from agribusiness economist Tommie Shepherd.