In 2005, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs selected the Borough of Fanwood as one of six municipalities to participate in a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) demonstration program. While TDRs have been used to foster preservation in other parts of the country, Fanwood is significant for using TDRs to focus on suburban residential resources – specifically, resources located in the Fanwood Park Historic District.
Fanwood was one of the early railroad suburbs developed by the Central Railroad of New Jersey to encourage and accommodate settlement along the commuter railroad line. The historic district contains nearly eighty buildings of varying architectural styles including: Gothic, Georgian, Colonial and Dutch Colonial revivals as well as American Foursquare, Tudor, and Craftsman, among others. One notable property is the Victorian Gothic-styled train station; a building considered a key element to the historic district and individually listed on both the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places.
One of the goals of the Fanwood program is to use TDRs to encourage and financially assist with the preservation of historic homes in the district while redirecting growth to areas more suitable to development. Both objectives are in keeping with the Borough’s master plan and shared community vision. TDR’s work by exchanging development rights in an area less suited for development (such as Fanwood’s historic district) for development rights in an area that the municipality determines is more appropriate for development.
TDR’s begin with eligible homeowners in the “sending” area being given a certain number of marketable development credits. These credits are based on the size and development potential of the property. The development credits are sold at market rates to developers interested in developing properties in the area the municipality has designated the “receiving” area. In this way, the district is able to maintain its historic character while encouraging development in more appropriate areas of the borough.
A key goal of Fanwood project is to explore various alternatives and methods for developing a mechanism to use the TDR credits to help finance the appropriate preservation and maintenance of properties in the historic district. By selling their development credits, homeowners will also be required to have a preservation easement placed on the property. The easement would restrict certain types of alterations or additions and help ensure the long-term preservation of the resource’s significant features. All future homeowners would be bound by the preservation easement.
Developers benefit in purchasing these land credits by increasing the development potential of a particular site. Additionally, because the municipality is engaged in the TDR program and has designated a specific area for development, the proposed development is less likely to spur opposition.
The use of TDR’s is not yet a reality in Fanwood. It is a pilot project that is support in part with a planning grant through the Garden State Historic Preservation Trust Fund, administered by the New Jersey Historic Trust. The grant funds will help pay for professional services involved in studying the legal, logistical, and financial methods of using TDR credits to maintain the historic character of the Fanwood Park Historic District.
The Fanwood TDR demonstration project will provide important information and potentially serve as a model for other communities, both statewide and nationally, as a tool for historic preservation.