Gone Fishin'

HEY!

I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!

2.10.2010

Build a hotel, save some trees?

In my current and my most recent former places of employment, much has been made of the notion of transferable development rights (TDR), but as in many places in the country, the idea of giving a property owner value for not developing their land in exchange for allowing an owner somewhere else to develop more has proven difficult to implement.

Enter Seattle and King County.  During our time in Missoula, Kate and I drove to Seattle for long weekends to get our "city fix" a couple of times.  One of the most striking things about driving into Seattle as compared to almost any other city of its size in the US is the overall lack of sprawling suburbs.  Driving over Snoqualmie Pass, it's as if you are in the country, then all of a sudden in the city.  Why?  Seattle has a growth boundary.  But what do you tell somebody who has property outside of the boundary?  Tough luck? 

No.  You let them transfer their right to develop to somebody inside the growth boundary, so they can build more, denser, higher, or what have you. The last time Kate and I were in Seattle, we noticed the ongoing construction of the Olive 8, now completed.  What I didn't know at the time was that the 8 was built larger than would normally be allowed in exchange for providing for the preservation of land outside of the growth boundary. 

Enter this excellent piece by Bill Fulton, explaining how the TDR program works in King County:

..."the Olive 8 condo/hotel tower had gotten 30% more height because of TDRs (I was on the second-to-highest floor) and that one TDR from rural King County -- that is, removing the ability to build one house on a five-acre lot -- bought 2,000 additional square feet in the Olive 8 tower. That means every six or seven rooms on the upper floors of the Hyatt at Olive 8 preserved one five-acre lot in eastern King County from being mini-mansioned by a Microsoft millionaire."

I think a lot about this here in Vermont, where the trend seems to be that young professionals move as far away from the Burlington area as they can comfortably get as soon as they have the wherewithal to do so, seeking out the largest and most remote lots possible.  Seattle shows us a different way, and one I think we might be wise to encourage here in Vermont:

"One of the reasons that TDR programs work in the Seattle area is that even the most urban dwellers do not feel removed from the rural environment. around them. Even if they walk or ride transit during the week, they love to get out and collide hard with nature on the weekends. So saving land far aware isn't an abstraction. It's real."

That's exactly the kind of lifestyle I'm looking for in Burlington.