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Extra Protections for Your Shoreline

April 1, 2001 | By Jim Lively
and Patty Cantrell
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Building setbacks and vegetative buffer zones may not address all of a community’s shoreline concerns. The list below describes the most common additions to shoreline protection overlays.

Erosion and Stormwater Control Measures

Rain and snow are powerful forces on the land that can wreak unnecessary havoc when buildings, driveways, and other human additions are not built with stormwater management and erosion control in mind.

County soil erosion control officers or drain commissioners may already address these issues when issuing permits. However, coastal communities can put stronger stormwater management and soil erosion control standards into their shoreline protection overlays and require builders to follow the additional standards. They can also simply adopt the provisions of the state soil erosion law and any county stormwater laws. Adopting the provisions of these laws into the overlay allows coastal community zoning officials to monitor compliance with existing laws and take action if problems arise.

It is important to coordinate stronger overlay standards with county officials. The county may be interested in similarly tightening its own soil erosion or stormwater control standards. It is also possible that enforcement of the existing soil erosion and stormwater rules is weak, which makes enforcement through the shoreline protection ordinance especially important.

Enforcement Tools
Are your community’s existing enforcement tools adequate for taking action on noncompliance with your shoreline protection overlay? Do you have million-dollar homes and $100 fines? Fines and stop-work orders are valuable tools for communicating that the overlay’s requirements are serious. You may want to consider stronger fines. You may also want to use stop-work orders to demonstrate that your community will not turn a blind eye to damaging practices.

Night Sky Safeguards
Gazing at the moon and stars or catching an aurora borealis show over the water are some of the special pleasures of living on the Great Lakes shoreline. A clear view of these celestial scenes is possible only in areas that are free from light pollution. But light escaping from residential or commercial buildings can cloud the night sky and shut off the starry strobe. Some coastal communities maintain a dark night sky by requiring property owners to shield lights, point them downward, or keep them below a certain wattage. Other options include requiring motion detector lights for some uses.

Critical Habitat Protection

Many species rely exclusively on the unique environment of the Great Lakes shoreline, including sandpipers and the endangered piping plover. Endangered shoreline plant species include Lake Huron tansy, Pitcher’s thistle, Houghton’s goldenrod, and dwarf lake iris.

Setbacks and vegetative buffers around houses provide considerable protection from human activity for these species. However, some require additional protection, such as limits on where pets and off-road vehicles can roam, restrictions on bonfires, and even on tall structures, such as flagpoles, which provide perches for birds that prey on the endangered species.

Space Considerations

Many zoning tools exist for preserving open spaces in sensitive areas. Coastal communities may consider using such tools to minimize land disturbance and maximize natural areas, which can reward property owners with higher land values and the local community with an uncrowded coastline. These tools include lot split regulations, limiting building size, and clustering homes in a development project to allow for desired denity, as well as open space.

Filling the Protection Gaps

Michigan Land Use Institute

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Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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