Local Zoning and Water Rights

Zoning Practice — August 2009

By Scott Reichle


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Heated disputes between neighbors over riparian rights are so common in coastal areas that one regulating agency has called them "dock wars." These conflicts emphasize the importance of zoning ordinances in attempting to regulate the use of waterways in a way that balances the rights of landowners with those of neighbors and the public at large.

Local zoning officials are accustomed to finding themselves involved in heated disputes between neighbors, but issues related to the construction of piers and other structures on waterways often present unique and challenging questions. Some of the issues that must be considered include whether a locality has the authority to implement and enforce zoning standards on navigable and non-navigable waterways.

This issue of Zoning Practice discusses the factors local governments must consider when drafting zoning ordinances regulating docks, piers, or other water-based structures.


Page Count
Date Published
Aug. 1, 2009
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American Planning Association

About the Author

Scott Reichle