Niagara Escarpment Overlay Zoning Guide

The Niagara Escarpment Overlay Zoning Guide (“Guide”) was prepared by the Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission in 2011 and was designed to help Wisconsin coastal communities delineate, develop, implement, and enforce Niagara Escarpment protection overlay zoning consistent with the laws of the state of Wisconsin. Although, the “target audience” for this Guide is Wisconsin communities with the Niagara Escarpment geologic formation, this Guide could be helpful to any community developing resource protection overlay zoning.

While working with coastal communities and counties on the development of comprehensive plans, it became apparent that there are few protection mechanisms for the Niagara Escarpment in Wisconsin. A 2001 study of the Escarpment concluded the Niagara Escarpment area continues to see steady population growth and increases in development pressure, especially along the coastal Niagara Escarpment area adjacent to Green Bay, which has seen more rapid development. This sensitive shoreline ecosystem is vulnerable to misuse from improper land development and resource extraction. This Guide is intended to provide a background to Escarpment development issues and examples of protection mechanisms.

A .pdf version of the Guide can be viewed by clicking here. A summary of its contents are provided below:


The Niagara Escarpment Overlay Zoning Guide contains a foreword, six chapters, a bibliography, a glossary, an index, and a digital copy of the Guide in PDF format on CDROM.

  • Chapter 1: Introduction offers a brief description and overview of the Niagara Escarpment and issues associated with it. An introduction to overlay zoning is also included in this chapter.
  • Chapter 2 provides specific information on land use issues associated with the Niagara Escarpment and describes the need for protection. It also provides a summary of protection methodologies.
  • Chapter 3 provides a process for determining the need for Escarpment protection and what those protections could include.
  • Chapter 4 describes the process for creating an overlay zoning ordinance and how to implement it.
  • Chapter 5 provides a description of additional protection measures.
  • Chapter 6 includes a sample Niagara Escarpment Overlay Ordinance.

The Niagara Escarpment Overlay Zoning Guide was funded by the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program (WCMP) and the Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission. The WCMP is part of the Wisconsin Department of Administration, with financial assistance provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (amended). The WCMP was established in 1978 to preserve, protect, and manage the resources of the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior coastline.