Michigan Land Use Institute

Clean Energy / News & Views / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / OVERLAY ZONE BOUNDARY


The Right Line

The fairest and most effective way to protect coastal resources and sensitive features is to first take a scientific inventory and then map them. The result is a resource inventory map local zoning officials can use to quickly and easily identify steep slopes, sand dune crests, wetland areas, forested vegetation, and critical habitat.

Communities that use resource inventories to draw their overlay zone boundaries are better off than those that simply draw their boundaries a fixed distance back from the shoreline. The resource-based variable boundary method:

• Leaves no fragile resources unprotected. In comparison, the fixed-distance boundary can skip vulnerable areas of the shoreline that might sit farther back.

• Leaves landowners in less sensitive areas alone. The fixed-distance boundary, on the other hand, can put property owners on less sensitive land through unnecessary regulatory hoops.

• Simplifies the site plan process for property owners. Instead of having to identify habitat, slopes, wetlands, and other resources, they can use information the local government provides with the resource inventory.

• Helps local governments enforce a shoreline protection overlay without hiring full-time resource professionals. Zoning officials must be comfortable with the information in the resource inventory. But they do not have to be certified biologists and hydrologists if the community has already used those specialists to inventory and map coastal resources.

The cost of conducting a shoreline resource inventory depends on the amount of information local governments already have about their land, vegetation, and wildlife. Many townships and counties have maps of some resources and have taken stock of various natural assets. Regional governmental organizations and state agencies also have such maps and data. State funding is available for work a community must do on its own. (See Coastal Cost Share-->Coastal Cost Share)

Michigan Land Use Institute

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Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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