Boat shelter

Current zoning regulations do not allow construction of structures within forty (40) feet of the highwater mark of a river or a lake. This includes boat shelters. A boat shelter established before this zoning regulation was put into effect can be maintained but cannot be altered or rebuilt if torn down. Docks and shelters including canopies attached to docks located in a waterway are regulated by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The Planning Commission is considering a recommendation to amend the zoning ordinance to allow boat shelters (roof, but no sides) over boat wells on the Cheboygan River, Indian River and Lower Black River and any canals attached to them. A survey was sent out to begin gathering input on this potential amendment. The results of that survey will assist with the development of specific regulations for such structures, if permitted. 

Any additional input is welcome at 231-627-8489 or by email at



March 9, 2017


Sign regulations are probably one of the most challenging aspects of any local land use ordinances. Signs are very desirable as they provide important information to travelers, promote local businesses, and allow people to express their ideas and beliefs, to practice freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment. Communities often choose to regulate signs to reduce visual clutter, limit driver distraction, maintain aesthetic character, and implement land use goals of the community. These regulations must abide by the First Amendment and not regulate what is said on those signs. Most recently, a United States Supreme Court case helped to define the limits of a sign ordinance in order to preserve freedom of speech.

The recent Supreme Court case of Reed v Town of Gilbert clarified the extent to which signs must be content neutral. A content neutral sign regulation is one that does not regulate the content of a sign to determine compliance with the ordinance. In other words, a sign can say basically anything that the owner would like to express on that sign without any local laws regulating whether it is or is not legal. A regulation can only determine where that sign can be placed, how big the sign is, how many signs can be on each property, and similar non-content regulations.

There are some minor exceptions such as those signs needed for traffic safety or other narrowly tailored sign rules needed to protect the safety of pedestrians, drivers, and passengers. Street numbers associated with private houses is an example of such a sign.

There are challenges that are created by these types of limits to sign rules. For instance, it is often desirable to have additional signs on property during elections. However, to create a rule that would allow for additional political signage during an election would essentially have to be a content based exception to the rule, which is not permitted.

One might suggest that a community simply exempt all political signs during elections from regulation but continue to regulate commercial signs. However, no such exemption could exist because the sign content would have to be reviewed to determine if it is political or commercial. This exemption could not exist without also exempting all signs from all regulations because to determine if a sign is a political sign requires that we review what the sign says which would be a content based regulation. One can’t define a political sign without talking about content of the sign and, therefore, signs with political messages must not face any additional scrutiny in the law when compared to any other sign with any other message.  

Currently, the County Planning Commission is reviewing the sign regulations and removing content-based regulations to provide signage that promotes everyone’s freedom of speech. These are the challenges that most communities are facing now with regards to sign regulations in the wake of this Supreme Court case and it is a very important process. More information on this and other matters that the County Planning Commission is reviewing can be found at You are welcome to attend these meetings. Please contact the Community Development Department with any questions you may have at 231-627-8489. Your input is valued.

Community Development Director
Steve Schnell
(231) 627-8485

870 South Main Street, Room 103
PO Box 70
Cheboygan, MI 49721
(231) 627-8489
Fax: (231) 627-3646

Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm

Additional Staff
Planner/Zoning Permit Review
Scott McNeil
(231) 627-8475
Building Official/Soil Erosion Officer
Matt Cronk
(231) 627-8488
Planning/Zoning Clerk
Debbie Tomlinson
(231) 627-8489
GIS Technician/Address Assignments
Sharon Weiss
(231) 627-8811
Zoning Enforcement
Keith Wregglesworth
(231) 627-8407