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Kittitas County unanimously approves far-reaching Transfer of Development Rights Program

December 18, 2009 | Washington


Jill Arango,
Kittitas County Conservation Director,
509-962-1654 or


Kittitas County unanimously approves far-reaching Transfer of Development Rights Program

Commissioners make Kittitas County the first in Eastern Washington with an extensive ordinance to conserve resource lands

Ellensburg - With strong technical support from the Cascade Land Conservancy, the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners Tuesday unanimously approved a Transfer of Development Rights program, the first in Eastern Washington. The new program is one of the most powerful, long-term tools available to conserve farm and forest lands in the county.

Commissioners Paul Jewell, Mark McClain and Alan Crankovich voted to establish the TDR program and accompanying ordinance as part of annual amendments to the county’s comprehensive land-use plan. The TDR program will apply to irrigated farms and forest lands throughout the county.

"The establishment of the Transfer of Development Rights program in our county is a major achievement on behalf of the farming and timber community and will provide landowners the opportunity to conserve their land, keep it available for resource production in the future and receive market-value for selling their development potential," said Jill Arango, CLC Kittitas County Conservation Director.

"This program provides a critical tool for reaching our challenging Cascade Agenda goals in Kittitas County," said Skip Swenson, Managing Director of the Conservancy’s Policy Department. "We worked on this project for several years and we’re thrilled to see it come to fruition."

Kittitas County hired the Conservancy in 2007 to study how TDR could work in the county and to provide recommendations for a program. As part of that work, the Conservancy talked with a wide range of stakeholders—including landowners, developers, civic leaders, tribal government and special interest groups—and proposed a detailed set of TDR recommendations for consideration by the County Commissioners.

Support for the ordinance came from a surprisingly wide array of community groups and organizations ranging from the City of Ellensburg to the Central Washington Homebuilders Association to the Washington Farm Forestry Association, as well as many private landowners in the county.

"As this has been a priority of mine, I am thrilled that this program was unanimously supported," said Commissioner Paul Jewell. "Together with the assistance of countless local citizens, we have created an innovative option that will have a positive and lasting impact in all of Kittitas County."

"The Kittitas County Commissioners showed great leadership with this action," said Gene Duvernoy, President, Cascade Land Conservancy. "Kittitas County now has one of the most complete TDR ordinances in the country. The action by the commissioners shows that the Cascade Agenda works effectively in rural as well as more urban parts of the region."

Three keys driving the success of the ordinance include:

• It represents the voice of many involved in the public hearings and employs best practices

• It represents a fair approach to conservation that respects property rights

• It aligns the county’s growth management and working land conservation goals

Over the past two years, the program has been presented publicly six times and has been officially available for public review and comment four times. The adopted ordinance incorporates not only CLC’s recommendations, but also refinements made by the county. All told, input from over 100 county residents drove the TDR proposal, "This ordinance is balanced, locally relevant and positioned for long-term success," said Swenson.

One key aspect of the new TDR ordinance is that it aligns two, often (though unnecessarily) competing county objectives: growth and conservation. Kittitas County grew by 20% between 2000 and 2009, with more than 80 percent of that growth due to migration into the county. While growth holds many benefits, it also puts pressure on the county’s working landscape, which remains important both economically and socially.

The TDR program provides an important connection between growth and working lands conservation. It allows the market to determine where and how much development should occur to accommodate growth, and it uses market demand for more housing in both the urban and rural areas to conserve important resource lands.


Contacts Gene Duvernoy, President Steve Dunphy, Vice President Communications 206-905-6901 206-905-6933

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