TDR: Balancing the Goals of Conservation and Growth

By Nicole Faghin and Reid Schockey
Special to the Seattle Times

At the Cascade Land Conservancy’s fifth Snohomish County Conservation Awards Breakfast last November, the Conservancy’s most-honored award — the Phil and Laura Zalesky Lifetime Achievement Award — was presented to two longtime advocates of Snohomish County.

Honored were Duane Weston, for his long-standing commitment to sustaining Snohomish County forests, and Cliff Bailey, for his tireless work in preserving Snohomish County farmland.

Bailey spoke briefly in accepting the award, calling on the audience to continue to work for the conservation of forests and farmlands. He pointed out the effectiveness of a transfer-of-development-rights program, urging all in the room — including elected officials — to support the idea.

Bailey spoke from the heart, from the point of view of a family that has worked the land in Snohomish County for generations. He also knows what it takes to get things done as a former state senator from Snohomish County.

These are the people who are at the heart and soul of the Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) and its efforts in Snohomish County.

The Puget Sound region is now at a critical juncture and this is especially true in Snohomish County. At risk are the very qualities that have made Snohomish County a great place to live. Snohomish County leaders and residents must find ways to work together, to collaborate in public-private ventures, to take bold and decisive steps.

One of those steps is to develop land-use tools such as the transfer of development rights (TDR).

TDR is a nationally used fair-market-based tool. It balances the goals of conservation and growth by allowing landowners in critical areas to sell rights to develop their land to builders, who then transfer those rights to urban-growth areas where growth is most suited. The Cascade Land Conservancy and other regional stakeholders have developed The Cascade Agenda to use TDR on a scale never tried before. Under legislation passed in 2007, a true regional marketplace using TDR is moving toward reality.

When the CLC held its breakfast, more than 400 people gathered early in the morning to meet and talk about the quality of life here. Like many CLC gatherings, it was not only the size of the gathering that was important, it was the makeup of those in the room — developers, timber companies, elected officials, tribal representatives, conservationists and the ordinary people who support the work of the Conservancy and its “big tent” Cascade Agenda.

One of the messages from the breakfast was that Snohomish County is Ground Zero in efforts to conserve the quality of life we all enjoy in the Puget Sound area. All the challenges are present in the county — urban/suburban development on the southern end, largely rural areas on the northern, mountains and forests to the east, Puget Sound on the west.

It was a message echoed by Bob Drewel, former Snohomish County executive and now executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC). Drewel told the audience the CLC and the PSRC have similar missions in that they both work with a wide range of groups, governments and organizations for the betterment of the region.

“We can get more done working together than we can separately,” he said.

The CLC is a part of Snohomish County. It has a dedicated board and a strong group of locally based trustees. The CLC has been involved in a number of conservation projects in Snohomish County over the years. It helped conserve land in the important Robe River Canyon and most recently helped conserve nearly 200 acres in the Jump Off Ridge area of the proposed Wild Sky Wilderness Area.

The Conservancy has been part of Snohomish County for the past critical decade. We will continue to be an integral part of this community for generations to come.

Nicole Faghin director of planning and environmental services at Reid Middleton, Inc., is a Snohomish County trustee for the Cascade Land Conservancy. Reid Shockey, founder of Shockey/Brent, Inc., is a member of the CLC board of directors.

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