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Great Lakes Article:

Lakefront land protected
New costal zone saves land, spurs growth

By Gene Schabath / The Detroit News

   CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP -- The Lake St. Clair shoreline stretches about 26 miles along the eastern edge of Macomb County and is considered some of its more valuable property -- economically and environmentally.
   Macomb County officials and leaders of five communities along the lakefront plan to keep it that way through a unique coastal zone management program.
   Under the program, Chesterfield, Harrison and Lake townships, and New Baltimore and St. Clair Shores, would work with the county's Planning and Economic Development Department on plans to promote economic development and redevelopment of lakefront property, while protecting wetlands and other environmental areas within the zone.
   The zone would extend 1,000 feet inland from the shoreline, starting at Lake Township and stretching north to New Baltimore.
   Steve Cassin, executive director of the Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development, said one issue the communities might want to tackle is a way to protect waterfront property still available for public use.
   "There definitely is a concern that these areas are being gobbled up by private developers, and access to the lake by the public is lessened," Cassin said.
   Cassin said the coastal zone plan could encourage zoning laws to prevent too-heavy development along the lakefront in some communities.
   The coastal zone management plan took a big stride Tuesday when the county board of commissioners planning and economic development committee voted 12-0 to apply for a $36,000 Clean Michigan Initiative grant to get the program going. The first meeting between the county and the five communities will be next week.
   The communities are expected to decide at the meeting whether they will join in the plan.
   The county planning and economic development committee wanted to make sure there was enough interest from the five communities before taking the grant proposal to the full board later this month.
   St. Clair Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber called the attempt noble and said his city will support it.
   "It's another example of working with your neighbor," he said.
   One of the first tasks of the zone management committee would be to take an inventory of all land within the 26-mile zone shoreline.
   "Working with the communities, and with people in the field, we want to see what land use there is within this 1,000 feet coastline zone," Cassin said. "Before we can establish a plan, we need to establish a base line."
   But Harrison Township Clerk Charles Pierce says he doesn't see the value in such a land use study in Harrison Township.
   "We have a master plan that shows what the plans are for the township, what the areas are zoned for from marina to residential," Pierce said.
   "If they want to study the waterfront, study the wetland issues."
   Pierce said various organizations are conducting wetland studies to comply with new federal regulations about wetland preservation.
   Wetlands will be one issue under the plan, but the focus of the wetland issue will be determined by the five communities, Cassin said.
   Another issue the coastal zone plan will address that could help Harrison Township is failed septic systems, Pierce said.
   Harrison Township has received $1 million in Clean Michigan Initiative funding to help eliminate faulty septic systems that have been polluting the Clinton River and Lake St. Clair. Pierce said it will take another $10 million to solve the problem. Harrison has applied for another $5 million Clean Michigan Initiative grant to take homes off septic systems and connect them to sanitary sewer lines.
   "And we're still going to have to spend another $5 million of our own money," he said.
   Cassin said under the coastal zone concept, communities could work together to apply for such grants.

You can reach Gene Schabath at (586) 468-3614 or
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