Adopt Model Ordinance Language Targeted at a Single Natural Resource

The DEQ prepared model ordinance language to guide local governments in the preparation of ordinance language applicable to each of these natural resources–except for environmental areas. These ordinances are included in the Appendices. There are many variations of some of these models. Some model ordinances have been updated since these samples were assembled (notably the sample wetlands ordinance). Check the DEQ website or contact the DEQ for the most current model ordinances.

Figure 3.1: Overlay Zone

Figure 3.1: Overlay Zone

All but the soil erosion and sedimentation model ordinance language in the Appendix is structured as an overlay zone. An example of an overlay zone is illustrated in Figure 3.1. In an overlay zone the special environmental provisions only apply in a limited area which is usually depicted on a map. For example, the floodplain regulations only apply to the area defined as a floodplain. This is usually an area that may be inundated by a flood with a frequency of occurrence of once each 100 years. The text in Part II explains where to find the mapped area for each of these eight special environments.

This model ordinance language can be incorporated into a separate section or article of the local zoning ordinance or adopted as an independent police power ordinance. The police power is the power of government to adopt laws that protect the public health, safety and general welfare. A zoning ordinance is a police power regulation, as is a dog license, or noise ordinance. Cities, villages, townships, and to a lesser extent counties in Michigan have authority to adopt police power regulations. The public purpose of the regulation must be stated in the ordinance and must advance one or more aspects of the public health, safety and general welfare. Some communities adopt environmental regulations as separate ordinances outside of the local zoning ordinance in order to “shelter” the zoning ordinance from any legal attacks that may be directed at the ordinance. Should a judge find that the community had adopted or was administering the ordinance improperly, the judge could invalidate all or part of the ordinance without in any way affecting or undermining the integrity of the local zoning ordinance. This is an important consideration in some communities. Another reason that some communities choose to adopt separate police power ordinances is because they do not have to protect nonconforming uses (unless the statute they are operating under specifically requires protecting them). A nonconforming use is one that pre-existed the zoning ordinance or an amendment to the zoning ordinance. Such a use is considered “grandparented” and is allowed to continue in the future in the same manner and to the same extent as it did when it became nonconforming. When nonconforming uses are not protected, then even without a proposed change to the property it could be required to be brought into conformance with the new regulations.

Additional resources to better understand model ordinance language for specific environmental provisions can be found here:

Credit: Filling the Gaps