Land Conservation Tools
Local jurisdictions can implement several tools to support current and future agriculture and forestry operations including conservation subdivision ordinances, overlay districts, and Purchase of Development Rights and Transfer of Development Rights programs.  These techniques provide for development while simultaneously protecting valuable natural resources – including farmlands and forests.


Buildings placed to blend into the rural landscape, Peninsula Township, Grand Traverse County


Conservation Planning
Conservation planning locates structures in compact groupings in smaller areas of a site to preserve large tracts of usable open space (e.g., orchards, vineyards, fields, forests) or sensitive environments (e.g., wetlands, woodlands, steep slopes) over the remainder of the site.  By revising zoning ordinances to make clustering a use-by-right, local jurisdictions can facilitate the protection of the region’s valuable natural resources and achieve more desirable and sustainable land patterns.


Agricultural landscape, Peninsula Township, Grand Traverse County

Overlay Districts
An overlay district provides additional land use regulations to designated areas which exceed those established by an underlying zoning district.  While the underlying zoning district identifies permitted land uses, the overlay district provides additional specifications
(e.g., design restrictions, additional setbacks) independent of the underlying zoning.  As the term suggests, overlay districts are an additional layer of protection that local jurisdictions can use to protect environmentally sensitive areas (e.g., ridgelines, hillsides, shorelines) or valuable agricultural or forest lands, especially those which fall within multiple zoning districts.


Grand Traverse Bay shoreline, Elmwood Township, Leelanau County

Purchase of Development Rights
Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) is a voluntary program where land owners receive financial compensation for selling a parcel’s development rights to a land trust or similar agency.  In return for the development value, a deed restriction is placed on a portion or entire piece of property protecting the land from future development. PDR programs provide land owners capital and ensure the protection of valuable agricultural and forest lands for future generations.


Cherry orchard, Elmwood Township, Leelanau County

Transfer of Development Rights
Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) provides local jurisdictions a regulatory tool to redirect development from farmland, forests, and open space to areas more conducive to development.  TDR programs alter development patterns in a community by moving development from one area to another.  As with PDR programs, a land owner receives financial compensation for the development rights of a parcel; however, with TDR programs, the development rights are transferred to another area within the community.  TDR programs offer communities a method for directing development to those areas most appropriate for it, while keeping areas most suitable for agriculture, forestry, or open space available for those purposes. Refer to Critical Design Practices: Open Space for a TDR illustration.