Master Planning for Resiliency and Sustainability

This information portal is designed to help communities plan for, protect, and preserve their waterfronts. Michigan is a state rich in lakes and rivers and home to the longest freshwater coastline in the world. The list of communities that do not have some sort of waterfront is much shorter than the list of communities that do.

White Paper

But in many community master plans and zoning ordinances, waterfronts are glossed over or ignored, given designations and regulations that treat them exactly the same as inland property. Without planning tailored directly to waterfronts, communities are missing out on the economic, social, environmental, and quality of life benefits that water provides.

Locally regulating land use and development in waterfront zones is explicitly authorized under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. Local communities are not only permitted to protect their waterfronts through zoning – they are required to do so. Zoning should mitigate the impacts of flooding, shoreline erosion, and other hazards to ecosystems, and the public health, safety, and welfare.

These protections are especially important in an age of climate variability. With instances of extreme weather increasing, it is increasingly crucial for communities to assess their vulnerability and resiliency. Waterfront areas tend to be amongst the most vulnerable, and keeping them safe, secure, vibrant, ecologically sound, and economically healthy should be among a community’s highest priorities.

This website contains the following sections:

What is a Master Plan? gives an overview of the basics of Master Planning and Zoning, including the process, potential partners, roles of different officials and boards, and how to get help.

Tools for Communities includes resources on a variety of topics that will be useful for waterfront communities, ranging how to plan for a waterfront in a Master Plan, to what type of creative Zoning can help protect sensitive areas, to more specific topics like how to build a “green street” or the value of creating a lake board.

Specific Resources for the Great Lakes, Inland Lakes, and Rivers are included because different types of water bodies have different needs along their banks. In these sections, you can find the information and resources that are most relevant to your specific waterfront.

Pathway to Resilience

MAP works with the Michigan Coastal Management Program (MCMP) to assist communities in their Pathway to Resilience. The goal is to enhance community preparedness and promote resiliency to mitigate the impacts of coastal hazards through increased knowledge of the risks, wise planning and zoning, and capacity building. Communities equipped with planning and data tools can effectively plan for growth and change; install practices and policies that protect, preserve, restore, enhance, and wisely develop coastal areas; and create networks for the collective impact of effective coastal management.

Coastal communities can take the following actions to become a Resilient-Ready Coastal Community:

  • Participate in an MCMP Coastal Leadership Academy training.
  • Conduct a vulnerability assessment to identify gaps and recommendations.
  • Update a community Master Plan with a Resilient Chapter that is formally adopted consistent with Michigan law.
  • Adopt resilient policies and ordinances such as setbacks and no-build zones adopted consistent with Michigan law.
  • Install nature-based alternatives that respect riparian rights and protect Public Trust shorelines.

Visit MCMP's Michigan's Resilient Coast webpage to find helpful resources such as the Building Coastal Resilience video series and the Resilient Coastal Communities Planning Guide..

Explore additional coastal resilience topics in MAP's 2023-2023 free webinar series.