Coordinated Permit Review and Approval Procedures

A very effective way to combine the strength of local zoning with the weight of state environmental permitting and enforcement is for local governments to coordinate zoning decisions with the DEQ when sensitive natural features are involved. When local governments have appropriate, but limited environmental protection standards in the zoning ordinance, they can condition final development approval on receipt of necessary permits from the DEQ. This type of coordinated review and approval process helps ensure key environmental and natural resources are protected as new development occurs. Many communities have informally been working with the DEQ this way for years. In some cases, more formal coordinated review procedures are desirable and can be beneficial to all involved parties. One form for such an agreement is a memorandum of understanding that spells out state and local responsibilities.

This approach is possible because the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act permits local governments to condition approval of zoning permits generally and site plan review specifically, on approvals under statutes administered by other governmental agencies [1].

This approach is especially desirable because local governments can be additional “eyes and ears” for natural resource protection, while leaving the environmental permit and enforcement decisions to the state agencies that have the technical wherewithal, the statutory responsibility and the ability to absorb any liability for the decisions made. For small and rural communities especially, these are huge considerations. In the end,development proposals that do not meet both state environmental standards and local zoning standards are not approved. Projects whose site plans do meet the standards of both local zoning ordinance and state regulations must be approved.



[1] See MCL 125.3501 (4) and (5).

Credit: Filling the Gaps