Michigan Land Use Institute

Thriving Communities / News & Views / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / VEGETATIVE BUFFER ZONE


Making Room for Nature

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

In addition to setback distances, the shoreline protection overlay includes “vegetative buffer zone” requirements for protecting the plants, animals, and land within the setback.

Homeowners and businesses can use the land in the vegetative buffer zone, but they do so in a way that keeps this fragile “riparian” area — the place where land meets water — looking wild and acting naturally.

The view
The top selling point of coastal real estate is the grandeur of a home overlooking brilliant blue water. The shoreline protection overlay preserves that property perk and protects property values by allowing for selective tree thinning, which provides a filtered view of the water. Selective tree thinning is the art of pruning or removing just those trees and shrubs that completely block the view, while leaving the rest to camouflage buildings, preserve wildlife habitat, and maintain the erosion protection that trees and other plants provide.

The grounds
People and wildlife can both play in the vegetative buffer zone as long as walkways, patios, and gardens fit into the landscape and the ecosystem. A simple walkway made of a few pieces of strategically placed wood and a bench at the edge of the woods is much less intrusive and damaging than a concrete, lamp-lined path leading to a large, reinforced deck. Similarly, random plantings of native grasses and flowers can actually support wildlife while a formal garden with foreign plants and pesticide use can harm the existing web of life.

Extra Protections for Your Shoreline

Michigan Land Use Institute

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