Webster Township and the Natural River Overlay District


A look at a section of the Huron River, near Dexter. photo by Lonnie Huhman

Webster Township is getting the word out on the uniqueness of the rivers that run through it.

The township will be sending out to educational materials to local businesses (real-estate, construction, and landscape businesses) as well as township homeowners regarding the Natural River Overlay District.

A decision on this was approved by the township board at their Feb. 21

The Sun Times News (STN) followed up with township officials.

In giving some background on this, township supervisor John Kingsley said in 1970, the State of Michigan passed the Natural Rivers Act. He said the township is merely sending out to Webster property owners, who are in the district, a reminder letter that if they wish to make changes in their property that they will need a DNR permit.

He said the township’s portion of the District includes the Huron River from Hudson Mills to Dexter and along Arms Creek.

According to the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC), Arms Creek meets the Huron River slightly upstream from Baseline Lake, at the southern edge of Livingston County and nearly all of the creekshed is located in Washtenaw County and Webster Township with most of the creekshed owned by private landowners.

STN also connected with Kay Stremler, a Webster Planning Commissioner and HRWC Board member from Webster Township.

Stremler said the goal for this communication is to enhance and expand awareness and knowledge of the broad connections among water features as well as the uniqueness of these natural rivers and the protections in place (at a high level).

She said the Natural Rivers Program was “developed by the State of Michigan in 1994 to preserve, protect and enhance our state's finest river systems for the use and enjoyment of current and future generations by allowing property owners their right to reasonable development, while protecting Michigan's unique river resources.”

The Huron River, Arms Creek and Mill Creek are the only designated natural river areas in southeastern Michigan.

In the township letter being sent out, it states: “The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was given the responsibility to manage the Natural Rivers Program to uphold this mandate. The program brings the state (DNR) and local governments together to plan for development in the Natural River Districts. The criteria for this planning must meet the Development Standards for the Natural River District, which are also designed to meet the designated areas' needs for development activities.”

“The Huron River Natural River District is between Kent Lake Dam and Barton Pond. In Webster it runs from Hudson Mills Metropark to Dexter and it includes Arms Creek, Because of the designation status, property owners of land along the river are required to meet certain development standards. In Webster, these standards are currently enforced by the DNR. Therefore, if you want to make changes to your property, you must obtain your permit from the state through the DNR. (Please note that the Webster Township is working on incorporating the state's Natural River District requirements into its Zoning Ordinance for the Natural River District properties.) For more information on Michigan's Natural Rivers Program, go to www.michigan.gov/dnrnaturalrivers.”

Stremler said by email the “Webster Township Natural River Overlay District (Section 16.30 of the Zoning Ordinance (ZO), adopted May 15, 2018) protects and limits uses for land within 400 feet from the Huron River and Arms Creek. Setbacks for structures and buildings are 125 feet for the Huron River and 50 feet for Arms Creek (and Mill Creek). A 50 foot vegetation strip must be maintained. These protections are adopted from the state program.”

She said in 2016, a brochure and cover letter prepared in collaboration with HRWC was sent to landowners in the Webster Natural Rivers Overlay District. It highlighted the state program and the intentions to incorporate the state protections into the Webster Zoning Ordinance.

Stremler said the action approved at the February 21 township board meeting is to review and update the previously used brochure now that the NRD protections are adopted in the Webster ZO and mail this to local businesses (real-estate, construction, and landscape businesses) that may serve these properties.

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