Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program

Sending Site Information

Kittitas County's TDR program aims to conserve valuable resource lands by transferring development potential from those areas to areas better suited to accept increased residential density. To achieve this goal, owners of qualified rural lands can choose to separate some or all of their unused development rights from their property and sell them to a developer who can use them to increase density at a qualified receiving site. At the same time that development rights are transferred from a sending site, a permanent conservation easement is placed on the sending parcel.

Sending Site Qualifications

Properties qualified to send TDRs must provide a benefit to the public by preserving lands that are either:

  1. Farm or agricultural lands that are in 20-acre zoning (commercial agriculture, AG-20, Forest & Range), have a minimum of 20 acres in size, are located on the Agricultural Production District map , have demonstrated proof of commercial agricultural income, and have a value above that associated with its resource value.
  2. Forest lands that are in 80-acre Commercial Forest zoning or 20-acre Forest & Range zoning, have a minimum of 20 acres in size, are not publicly owned, have a compliant Timber Management Plan, and have a value above that associated with its resource value.
  3. Frequently Flooded Areas as defined in KCC 17A.02.140.
  4. Lands designated as eligible sending sites in a TDR agreement with a city.

Benefits to Landowners

By selling development rights, landowners achieve an economic return on their property while maintaining ownership of the land and conserving it for farming, forestry, habitat, recreation, or open space in perpetuity.

Many people who own land in the rural area would like to keep their land open for forestry, agriculture, or wildlife habitat benefits. However, because of rising land values, the economic pressure to subdivide and sell off pieces of the land is very strong. By becoming a sending site, a landowner can retain ownership of their land for forestry or farming while gaining some monetary benefit from selling off the development rights. It is also possible to reduce your property taxes by transferring development rights from your property.

Enrolling a property in the TDR Program

Enrollment in the TDR program happens in several stages:

  1. The landowner decides to transfer development rights and determines sending site eligibility (see sending site criteria KCC 17.13.020). They then submit a sending site application with supporting documents and processing fee to Kittitas County Community Development Services (CDS).
  2. Kittitas County reviews the sending site application and supporting documents and then issues a “Certificate Letter of Intent.”
  3. The landowner finds a buyer and enters into a real estate transaction with the buyer. Through escrow, a conservation easement is entered into and the TDR Certificate(s) are issued.
  4. Once the sales transaction is completed, the conservation easement is placed upon the property.

Each stage of the process has several steps. While timing will vary from site to site, it is usually possible to complete the entire process in three to four months. Detailed steps in the process include:

  1. Landowner considers participation in the TDR program. Several sources of educational information are available for landowners. They can pick up a TDR brochure at Kittitas County's Community Development Services office. They can review information on this website. County staff is available to answer questions or set up a pre-application meeting by calling 509-962-7506.
  2. Landowner completes and submits a TDR Sending Site Certification Application with the application fee and supporting documents. Supporting documents include a site plan drawn to scale that shows existing physical features, record of survey (if available), certificate of title and title report that have been issued within 30 days of the application, Assessor records, and maps.
  3. Kittitas County reviews the application to determine if it is complete and then accepts it for evaluation.
  4. Kittitas County evaluates the application. Planners at the County will review the title report, maps, income documentation, Assessor's records, permit history, and visit the site to ensure application materials reflect current land use at the site.
  5. Kittitas County will also evaluate proof of commercial agricultural income for applications that fall under the Farm and Agricultural Land category. The income requirements are the same as is required for Current Use Agricultural taxation under RCW 84.34 .
  6. Kittitas County will evaluate Timber Management Plans for applications that fall under the Forest Land category. These plans must be in compliance with Washington State Department of Revenue's guidelines dated June 2010 or as thereafter amended.
  7. Kittitas County will determine the number of eligible development rights or TDR certificates that can be issued. The County provides a “Certificate Letter of Intent” to the landowner. The Certificate Letter of Intent provides proof of eligibility for the landowner when looking for a buyer, indicates the number of eligible TDR certificates that can be issued, and is valid for five years.
  8. Landowner searches for a buyer. Potential buyers include large land developers who may be considering creating additional density in one of their developments. Landowners can contact County staff and ask for the list of potential buyers that have indicated interest in buying TDR Certificates. Or, they can use a similar process as used for finding a buyer in real estate or for water rights.
  9. Once a buyer is found, the landowner and buyer will hire an escrow agent to manage the purchase and sales agreement and escrow process. This process will require a recent title report (issued within 30 days), payment of real estate excise tax, a conservation easement that is signed by the landowner and the County in the presence of a notary public and recorded at the County, and TDR Certificates issued by the County and recorded.
  10. Kittitas County has 28 days prior to issuing TDR Certificates to ensure eligibility from the time the conservation easement is requested. The conservation easement permanently encumbers the property once the TDR Certificates are issued and the development rights on the parcel(s) are extinguished. The owner maintains rights permitted in the zone such as farming, timber harvesting, and recreation.

After the TDR Certificates are initially issued and sold, they become a commodity that can be bought and sold multiple times. During each sales transaction, the certificate must be recorded. Once the TDR Certificates are provided to the County as a requirement for final approval of a land use application, it is considered redeemed and cannot be used again.

The process does not always proceed exactly in this order and some of the steps may not be required under special circumstances. The steps involving a buyer are not necessary when a landowner does not desire to sell the TDR Certificate(s). Landowners may want to use their TDR Certificate(s) for their own development applications that increase density on other parcel(s) that they also own or may want to hold on to their TDR Certificates depending on market conditions.

Sending site forms and resources

The first step in the enrollment process is to complete a Sending Site Application. Download an application below and return it to the address on the application with a check for $400 to Kittitas County Community Development Services, and include the required information and supporting documents.

TDR Sending Site Certification Application

If your sending site is farm and agricultural land, it must be evaluated with proof of commercial agricultural income that meet the same requirements as for Current Use Agricultural taxation under RCW 84.34. Please attach this proof of income with the TDR application. See the website for more information on income requirements.

If your sending site is forest land, it must be evaluated with a Timber Management Plan for the property. The Timber Management Plan must be in compliance with Washington State Department of Revenue's guidelines dated June 2010 or as thereafter amended. See the for more information on Timber Management Plan requirements.