N.Y. General City Law Section 20-F
Transfer of development rights

  • definitions
  • conditions
  • procedures


As used in this section:


“Development rights” shall mean the rights permitted to a lot, parcel, or area of land under a zoning ordinance or local law respecting permissible use, area, density, bulk or height of improvements executed thereon. Development rights may be calculated and allocated in accordance with such factors as area, floor area, floor area ratios, density, height limitations, or any other criteria that will effectively quantify a value for the development right in a reasonable and uniform manner that will carry out the objectives of this section.


“Receiving district” shall mean one or more designated districts or areas of land to which development rights generated from one or more sending districts may be transferred and in which increased development is permitted to occur by reason of such transfer.


“Sending district” shall mean one or more designated districts or areas of land in which development rights may be designated for use in one or more receiving districts.


“Transfer of development rights” shall mean the process by which development rights are transferred from one lot, parcel, or area of land in any sending district to another lot, parcel or area of land in one or more receiving districts.


In addition to existing powers and authorities to regulate by planning or zoning including authorization to provide for transfer of development rights pursuant to other enabling law, the legislative body of any city is hereby empowered to provide for transfer of development rights subject to the conditions hereinafter set forth and such other conditions as the city legislative body deems necessary and appropriate that are consistent with the purposes of this section, except that in cities of over one million any transfer of development rights shall be provided in the zoning ordinance after adoption by the city planning commission and board of estimate. The purpose of providing for transfer of development rights shall be to protect the natural, scenic or agricultural qualities of open lands, to enhance sites and areas of special character or special historical, cultural, aesthetic or economic interest or value, to protect lands at risk from sea level rise, storm surge or flooding, and to enable and encourage flexibility of design and careful management of land in recognition of land as a basic and valuable natural resource. The conditions hereinabove referred to are as follows:


That transfer of development rights, and the sending and receiving districts, shall be established in accordance with a well-considered plan within the meaning of subdivision twenty-five of § 20 (Grant of specific powers)section twenty of this article. The sending district from which transfer of development rights may be authorized shall consist of natural, scenic, recreational, agricultural or open land or sites of special historical, cultural, aesthetic or economic values sought to be protected or lands at risk from sea level rise, storm surge or flooding. Every receiving district, to which transfer of development rights may be authorized, shall have been found by the legislative body of the city, after evaluating the effects of potential increased development which is possible under the transfer of development rights provisions, to contain adequate resources, environmental quality and public facilities including adequate transportation, water supply, waste disposal and fire protection, and that there will be no significant environmentally damaging consequences and such increased development is compatible with the development otherwise permitted by the city and by the federal, state, and county agencies having jurisdiction to approve permissible development within the district. A generic environmental impact statement pursuant to the provisions of article eight of the environmental conservation law shall be prepared by the city for the receiving district before any such district, or any sending district, is designated, and such statement shall be amended from time to time by the city if there are material changes in circumstances. Where a transfer of development rights affects districts in two or more school, special assessment or tax districts, it may not unreasonably transfer the tax burden between the taxpayers of such districts. The receiving and sending districts need not be coterminous with zoning districts.


That sending and receiving districts be designated and mapped with specificity and the procedure for transfer of development rights be specified. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, environmental quality review pursuant to article eight of the environmental conservation law for any action in a receiving district that utilizes development rights shall only require information specific to the project and site where the action will occur and shall be limited to review of the environmental impacts of the action, if any, not adequately reviewed in the generic environmental impact statement.


That the burden upon land within a sending district from which development rights have been transferred shall be documented by an instrument duly executed by the grantor in the form of a conservation easement, as defined in title three of article forty-nine of the environmental conservation law, which burden upon such land shall be enforceable by the appropriate city in addition to any other person or entity granted enforcement rights by the terms of the instrument. All provisions of law applicable to such conservation easements pursuant to such title shall apply with respect to conservation easements hereunder, except that the city may adopt standards pertaining to the duration of such easements that are more stringent than such standards promulgated by the department of environmental conservation pursuant to such title. Upon the designation of any sending district, the city shall adopt regulations establishing uniform minimum standards for instruments creating such easements within the district. No such modification or extinguishment of an easement shall diminish or impair development rights within any receiving district. Any development right which has been transferred by a conservation easement shall be evidenced by a certificate of development right which shall be issued by the city to the transferee in a form suitable for recording in the registry of deeds for the county where the receiving district is situated in the manner of other conveyances of interests in land affecting its title.


That within one year after a development right is transferred, the assessed valuation placed on the affected properties for real property tax purposes shall be adjusted to reflect the transfer. A development right which is transferred shall be deemed to be an interest in real property and the rights evidenced thereby shall inure to the benefit of the transferee, and his heirs, successors and assigns.


That development rights shall be transferred reflecting the normal market in land, including sales between owners of property in sending and receiving districts, a city may establish a development rights bank or such other account in which development rights may be retained and sold in the best interest of the city. Cities shall be authorized to accept for deposit within the bank gifts, donations, bequests or other development rights. All receipts and proceeds from sales of development rights sold by the city shall be deposited in a special municipal account to be applied against expenditures necessitated by the municipal development rights program.


That prior to designation of sending or receiving districts, the legislative body of the city shall evaluate the impact of transfer of development rights upon the potential development of low or moderate income housing lost in sending districts and gained in receiving districts and shall find either there is approximate equivalence between potential low and moderate housing units lost in the sending district and gained in the receiving districts or that the city has or will take reasonable action to compensate for any negative impact upon the availability or potential development of low or moderate income housing caused by the transfer of development rights.


A legislative body of a city modifying its zoning ordinance or enacting a local law pursuant to this section shall follow the procedure for adopting and amending its zoning ordinance or local laws, as the case may be, including all provisions for notice applicable for changes or amendments to a zoning ordinance, local law or regulation.


Nothing in this section shall be construed to invalidate any provision for transfer of development rights heretofore or hereafter adopted by any local legislative body, or, in the case of cities over one million, by the board of estimate.

Source: Section 20-F — Transfer of development rights; definitions; conditions; procedures, https://www.­nysenate.­gov/legislation/laws/GCT/20-F (updated Nov. 22, 2019; accessed Jun. 22, 2024).

Jun. 22, 2024

Last modified:
Nov. 22, 2019

§ 20-F’s source at nysenate​.gov

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