Rural Water Quality Protection: A Planning & Zoning Guidebook for Local Officials

December 31, 2012 - John Warbach, <>, Mark Jones, Ryan Soucy and Jacqueline Spry

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About the Guidebook

The Planning and Zoning Center at MSU (PZC), a part of the Land Policy Institute, has developed a new planning and zoning guidebook for use by local government officials in very rural parts of Michigan. Dr. John Warbach, LPI’s Associate Director, led the project and is a co-author, along with Mark Wyckoff, MSU professor, LPI Senior Associate Director and PZC Director; and PZC Team members Mark Jones, Ryan Soucy and Jacqueline Spry. The new Rural Water Quality Protection Guidebook is a necessary addition to the library of Planning Commissioners, Zoning Administrators, and local and appointed elected officials in rural Michigan and throughout the Midwest Great Lakes states. People in these sectors will find expert advice in the Guidebook. It is a “must have” for those working to prevent future contamination of rural watersheds by use of planning and zoning tools.

This Guidebook provides information about how land development and other activities on the land affect water quality; provides an overview of the many entities engaged in water quality protection (e.g., local, state and federal government, individual property owners and nonprofit organizations); provides educational materials on the best management practices that lower the impact of land use activities on our water bodies; and provides sample language for community Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances that helps ensure that future development and other land use activities occur with little impact on the quality of water needed for our communities. The Guidebook offers a simple and straightforward approach that is uniquely suited to enable small rural communities with limited staff and resources with the crafting, updating and implementing of their Master Plans and Zoning Ordinances. 

The Guidebook is 116 pages in length and divided into four chapters (Introduction, Understanding Watersheds, the Umbrella of Protection for the Watershed, and Best Management Practices in Rural Areas) and features two appendices (Appendix A: Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance Sample Language, and Appendix B: Local Planning and Zoning Assessment Tool). Chapter 4 and Appendix A comprise the bulk of this Guidebook, and are organized to include a description of each major low impact development category, along with a description of the category, a list of best management practices addressed within the category, and “Good,” “Better,” and “Best tables for that category. For each best management practice in that category there is:

  • A description of the issue, including the problem being addressed, a gap left for local regulations and an explanation of key terms.
  • A proposed approach in the Master Plan, including a description, an explanation of key terms and key Master Plan language.
  • A proposed approach in the Zoning Ordinance, including a description, an explanation of key terms and key Zoning Ordinance language.


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