Innovative Shoreland Standards Showcase

four images showing ideal shoreland practices - wildflowers near a shoreline, a cabin near water, wildlife on a beach and lush trees near water

Communities around Minnesota are taking their shoreland ordinances beyond the statewide minimums standards to tackle tough issues affecting lakes and rivers.

The current shoreland rules were updated in 1989. They do not address emerging problems with declining water quality and habitat loss due to contemporary shoreland development, or the effects of climate change. Communities can do more!

Examples of Innovative Standards

The following examples highlight what communities across the state are doing to protect water quality and shoreline habitat, reduce lake crowding, and streamline administration of their shoreland ordinances. Determining what innovative standards are right for each community depends on a range of considerations.

Bluff Standards

bluff in front of a house. bluff failed and land is sliding into the water

Standards for features that rise 30% or more above the ordinary high water level.

Examples of Bluff Standards

  • Protects investment in structures from bluff failure
  • Provides greater space to allow vegetation and habitat in bluff areas
  • Protects slopes from erosion and failure
  • Reduces visual impact of structures from the water


Density / Lot Size Standards

arial view of houses with docks stretching into the water

Standards that regulate the minimum lot size or the number of dwelling units within a specified area.

Examples of Density / Lot Size Standards

  • Preserves and enhances natural lakeshore character
  • Reduces visual impact of structures from the water
  • Reduces surface water use and crowding
  • Enhances and maintains property value


Impervious Surface Standards

a large paved driveway

Standards that reduce the amount of hard surfaces that cause nutrient laden runoff to flow into surface waters.

Examples of Impervious Surface Standards

  • Provides space to allow for riparian vegetation and habitat
  • Preserves and enhances natural lakeshore character
  • Reduces stormwater runoff and nutrient flows into surface waters


Land Alteration Standards

steep dock from a cabin, towards the water

Standards that guide land disturbance and grading activities in sensitive areas.

Examples of Land Alteration Standards

  • Prevents sedimentation and flow of nutrients into surface waters
  • Reduces risk of slope and bluff failure
  • Retains vegetation


Limits on Land Uses and Structures

colored map highlighting different plots of land

Standards that define what types of structures and land uses are allowable. Land uses are typically regulated as permitted, conditional, and prohibited.

Examples of Standards that Limit Land Use and Structures

  • Limit intense uses in sensitive areas
  • Easy to administer
  • Preserves and enhances natural lake shore character
  • Reduces visual impact of structures from the water


Nonconformity Standards

cabin along a waterfront, with a covered boathouse on the beach

Standards for any uses, lots or structures that do not comply with current zoning standards.

Examples of Nonconformity Standards

  • General reduction of impacts caused by nonconformities
  • Provides clarity on managing nonconformities


Septic Dimensional Standards

six white posts over a tarp, showing the location of a septic area

Standards that regulate the setback distances between septic systems and sensitive features such as the water's edge and blufflines.

Examples of Septic Dimensional Standards

  • Reduces bacteria entry into surface waters
  • Reduces risk of bluff failures
  • Reduces risk of seepage from bluffs and steep slopes


Shoreland District and Waterbody Classifications Standards

map showing green land with blue lakes

Standards that define the size of the shoreland district and the types of subdistricts or waterbody classification methods.

Examples of Shoreland District and Waterbody Classification Standards

  • Customize protections to sensitive shoreline resources and waters
  • Easy to administer


Structure Setback Standards

arial view of two cabins along a waterfront, shoreline is eroding

Standards that establish the minimum distance between structures and septic systems and sensitive areas such as the water's edge and bluff lines.

Examples of Structure Setback Standards

  • Provides space to allow for vegetation and habitat in riparian and bluff areas
  • Preserves and enhances natural lakeshore character
  • Reduces visual impact of structures from the water
  • Reduces visual obstructions of the water from neighboring properties


Vegetation Management Standards

cabin nested behind tress along a waterfront

Standards that promote the protection and restoration of near-shore vegetation for habitat, water quality and aesthetic purposes.

Examples of Vegetation Management Standards

  • Slows runoff into waterbodies, encouraging groundwater rechange
  • Infiltrates runoff and filters nutrients and pollution
  • Provides habitat
  • Enhances natural lakeshore character
  • Anchors the soil, reducing erosion