Wetland and Shoreland Zoning Tools
Amendments to Shoreland Zoning to Protect Habitat Adjacent to Significant Wetlands
The protection of upland buffers or riparian zones surrounding streams and wetlands, not only protects wetland functions and values, but also is integral for maintaining overland travel corridors and connections between significant habitat components. Shoreland Zoning is often the best tool municipalities have to review the incremental impacts posed by small projects such as individual lot development that typically only require a building permit from the Codes Enforcement Office. The State Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act requires municipalities to zone and protect a 250-foot area adjacent to wetlands that are ten or more acres in size, excepting forested wetlands, as part of a Shoreland Zoning Ordinance. However, there is no similar requirement to zone and protect small streams, forested wetlands or wetlands less than 10 acres in size, even though these wetlands may have significant ecological values deserving protection.
To address this gap in protection of significant wetland values, a municipality has the ability to consider amending its Shoreland Zoning Ordinance or the shoreland zoning provisions of a town-wide zoning ordinance. Suggested approaches for such amendments are provided below. Section I. presents an overview of suggested provisions and includes explanatory notes supporting the need for the various provisions. Section II. provides example language for the suggested provisions and amendments. A municipality can choose to adopt all or part of these recommendations.
Note: Any amendments to Shoreland Zoning must be approved by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Further, any amendments to the Shoreland Zoning Ordinance or shoreland provisions of a town-wide zoning ordinance that extend the area regulated beyond the state minimum (such as increasing the shoreland zone to include areas around headwater streams, or wetlands less than 10 acres in size, or increasing the shoreland zone beyond 250 feet) must be supported by policies and strategies in the municipality's adopted Comprehensive Plan, and the Plan must have been deemed consistent with the State Planning and Land Use Regulation Act (Title 30-A § 4301 et seq.).