Local officials can learn advanced shoreline planning and zoning techniques

Protecting inland lake and stream shorelines is challenging for local officials. A December 2013 workshop will help planning and zoning officials design effective ordinances for their community.

Northeast Michigan is blessed with outstanding water resources that draw people to that part of the state. Protecting lake and stream shorelines is vital to economic development and environmental protection.

To help planning and zoning officials develop or refine shoreline protection ordinances, Michigan State University Extension and the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments are sponsoring an advanced shoreline planning and zoning workshop on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 4 - 9 p.m. at the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Museum in Alpena, Mich. The event is a specially designed follow-up to the spring 2013 Planning and Zoning for Watershed Protection workshops held in Gaylord and Alpena, although participation in those events is not a prerequisite for attending the advanced workshop.

Designing effective and enforceable zoning ordinance provisions for inland lakes and streams shorelines is challenging, to say the least. That corridor is quite vulnerable – development activities there can greatly impact water quality. In Michigan, the biggest concerns are shoreline erosion, water runoff containing phosphorus and pollutants, and habitat destruction. Lake and stream shorelines, though, are highly value property for recreation and homes. One trend is that small seasonal homes are being replaced by large homes occupying a much greater portion of what are often small parcels. Bigger structures usually result in larger roofs and paved areas that collect storm water and direct it to the lake, taking with it pollutants such as soil particles, excess fertilizers and pet waste.

The primary goals for shoreline ordinances are to restrict the percentage of impervious surfaces (paved and build surfaces where water can’t percolate into the ground), require a vegetated buffer of native shrubs and trees to filter nutrients and establish building setbacks from the lake or stream edge. Other provisions can regulate shoreline erosion control structures, septic systems and permitted species for planting.

Many options with varying degrees of complexity are available to local officials. A key consideration for communities considering shoreline regulation is enforceability – complex provisions in small, rural areas with no staff and limited zoning enforcement funds are unlikely to be successfully implemented.

During the workshop, participants will learn how to assess the unique shoreline characteristics in their communities, evaluate their own ordinances, and explore details about applying shoreline zoning approaches. Experts will also discuss how shoreline regulation fits with voluntary approaches.

Additional information about the workshop is available from MSU Extension. The registration deadline is December 4, 2013.

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