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Sustainable Development Strategies in Focus at Board of County Commission Meeting with Amendments to Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) Program

Santa Fe, NM – On November 14, 2023, the Santa Fe County (County) Board of County Commissioners (Board) approved Ordinance No. 2023-07 which amended Chapter 12 of the Santa Fe County Sustainable Land Development Code, enhancing the Transfer of Development Rights program. A Transfer of Development Rights, or TDR, is a property development right that can be severed from a qualifying property and then sold, to be utilized in urbanizing areas like Sustainable Development Area 1 (SDA-1), to promote smart growth and compact development. 

The Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners approved revisions to TDR ratios, increasing the number of dwelling units that may be built with TDRs. These include adding transfer ratios for affordable and rental housing, while also providing more flexible building dimensional standards. Additional ordinance changes include adding the option to pay a fee-in-lieu when TDR rights are unavailable.  

Santa Fe County Senior Planner, Angela Bordegaray explained that “The TDR Program is the only one of its kind in the State of New Mexico. The program is highly beneficial and unique for Santa Fe County because within our boundaries we have an abundance of agricultural lands and unique cultural landscapes, natural beauty, historic and archeological resources, and sensitive ecological areas that require protection”.

TDRs are a nationally recognized regional planning tool that allows landowners to preserve their land by selling their development rights in designated "Sending Areas" to developers interested in building more compact developments in "Receiving Areas”.  For those familiar with conservation tools, the TDR program is a permanent mechanism in removing development from a property, reaching beyond a conservation easement in protecting ecologically sensitive and agricultural properties. In addition to this, the sale of TDR’s could result in monetary gains that would further support agricultural or restoration activities for property owners.

The TDR certificate's market value is determined by the open market, as outlined in the county's Sustainable Growth Management Plan (SGMP) and Sustainable Land Development Code (SLDC). The primary goal of the TDR Program is to safeguard county lands with intrinsic value from irreversible development while incentivizing sustainable growth in preferred areas of Santa Fe County with existing public utilities such as adequate roads, water, and sewer services.

Commissioner Hughes emphasized the importance of the TDR Program, “This is a great tool, but it is only one of the tools we need and there will be more things we need to do to address affordable housing and preserve our agricultural lands and open space. If somebody looks at this and says this doesn’t do enough, well you’re right, but it’s a start and it’s going to get us further down the road to where we need to be”.

County residents seeking to protect their property may apply to the TDR Program and may qualify to receive TDR certificates at market prices, allowing them to sell to developers interested in higher density projects. This mutually beneficial arrangement not only preserves historic and scenic areas but also encourages developers to create more affordable mixed housing types.

The TDR Program is a key component of Santa Fe County's commitment to sustainable growth, acting as an effective anti-sprawl tool embedded in the land development code.

For more information on the TDR Program, contact Angela Bordegaray, Senior Planner for the County's TDR Program, at (505) 995-2735 or