Parcels in Harford County that are zoned Agricultural (AG) have development potential based upon development rights. Development rights are calculated as the parcel was described in the Land Records as of February 8, 1977 whereby 1 development right or 1 residential lot is permitted on any parcel of land that is more than 20,000 square feet and less than 11 acres, 2 development rights or 2 residential lots are permitted on any parcel of land that is between 11 and 29 acres, and an additional development right or residential lot is permitted for each additional 10 acres in excess of 20 acres. Additional lots can be created for any member of the immediate family of the person(s) who were owners of record of the parcel as of February 8, 1977 and are still owners today.
Agricultural preservation was initiated in Harford County in 1977 through the county’s Master Plan that established the goal of protecting farmland within the county. This goal was further delineated in 1982 with the introduction of agricultural preservation programs as well as the advent of the Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program.
The intent of the TDR program was to facilitate development flexibility whereby limiting sprawling development while protecting agricultural lands for long term agricultural use. Typically, prior to the TDR program, a farmer would subdivide her/his land whereby decreasing the amount of farmable land. The TDR program gave the property owner the option to sell his development rights rather than subdivide lots. As result, the TDR program offers the farmer a new option to continue farming while facilitating development in other areas.
Recently, the revised Harford County Zoning Code, as adopted in 2008, modified the TDR program to increase the options for farmers looking to transfer available development rights without decreasing their amount of farmland. The new changes also allow for the transfer of family conveyances. The new changes, as specified in §267-53 of the Code, allow development rights to be transferred not only to other parcels zoned AG but also to newly zoned Village Residential (VR) and RR parcels as determined by the County Council as of December 22, 2009 and designated on the most recently adopted Land Use Map.