§ 153.171  LANDSCAPING.
   (A)   Intent. This section promotes the public health, safety and welfare by establishing minimum standards for the design, installation and maintenance of landscaping. Landscaping and landscaped buffers help protect and enhance land uses and the visual image of the community. They further preserve natural features, improve property values and can alleviate the impacts of noise, traffic and visual distractions. Landscaped buffers protect less intense uses from noise, lighting and other impacts associated with more intensive land uses. Specifically, the intent of these provisions is to:
      (1)   Improve the appearance of off-street parking and storage areas and property abutting public rights-of-way;
      (2)   Protect and preserve the appearance, character and value of the neighborhoods, which abut non-residential areas, parking lots and other potentially obtrusive uses;
      (3)   Reduce soil erosion and depletion;
      (4)   Increase soil water retention, thereby helping to prevent flooding, erosion and sedimentation and enhancing ground water recharge;
      (5)   Remove air pollutants and reduce, eliminate or control glare, reflection and heat island effects; and
      (6)   Assist in directing safe and efficient traffic flow and prevent vehicular and pedestrian circulation conflicts.
   (B)   General requirements. These regulations apply to all new uses and the expansion of existing uses requiring site plan approval.
      (1)   Landscaping shall be installed before occupancy, unless the Planning Commission authorizes occupancy prior to complete landscape installation, due to unforeseen weather conditions or other circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. In such a case, a performance guarantee, per § 153.239 of this chapter, shall be provided to ensure completion of the project as required. All landscaping shall be completed within one full growing season.
      (2)   All landscaping shall be maintained after planting and regularly watered, fertilized, pruned and kept free from disease. The owner or controlling party shall be responsible for maintenance.
      (3)   Diseased or dead plants shall be replaced within one growing season.
      (4)   All plants shall be hardy per climatic conditions in the city.
      (5)   All landscaped areas shall be mulched and those not containing trees and shrubs must be planted with ground cover. Mulch of any type is not considered groundcover, nor is it a substitute for ground cover.
      (6)   The overall landscape plan shall not contain more than 25% of any one plant species.
      (7)   Trees and shrubs shall not be placed closer than four feet to a fence, wall or property line.
      (8)   For a corner lot or a lot with more than one frontage where landscaping is required, all frontages shall be landscaped.
      (9)   Berms shall be designed to vary in height and shape to create a more natural appearance. An unbroken earth mound of uniform height shall be avoided. The maximum slope for a berm shall be one foot vertical to three feet horizontal, unless otherwise allowed by the Planning Commission.
      (10)   Landscaping shall not obstruct sight distance, per § 153.142 of this chapter.
      (11)   Landscaping plans are subject to Planning Commission review and approval.
      (12)   The Planning Commission may allow a deviation from the requirements of this section under any of the following circumstances:
         (a)   Existing vegetation or topographic features make compliance with requirements unnecessary or difficult to achieve;
         (b)   The application of requirements will result in a significant loss of existing vegetation, or natural or cultural features;
         (c)   Modification of requirements will clearly result in a superior design that could not be otherwise achieved;
         (d)   Where the distance between a building, parking area or use is more than 200 feet from a side or rear lot line, the Planning Commission may reduce the buffer area requirements along the applicable lot line(s) by 50%;
         (e)   Where the required landscaping may interfere with view corridors, such as developments along water bodies, the Planning Commission may require planting of specific species in locations where the height or canopy will not compromise view corridors; and
         (f)   Where landscaping requirements may not be necessary for community aesthetics, such as within the Ance Industrial Park.
      (13)   The Planning Commission may impose conditions on landscaping as part of site plan review.
      (14)   Where a development is proposed in phases, each phase shall comply with all applicable landscaping requirements.
      (15)   Where landscaping requirements are based on a distance measured along a property line and result in a fractional requirement, the required landscaping for just that area shall be multiplied by the fraction. For example, when a fractional area is equal to 30% of the required distance the number of required plants shall be multiplied by 0.30. A fraction less than 25% may be disregarded.
      (16)   To ensure that all landscaping is installed, as a condition of approval a letter of credit or some other performance guarantee may be required in accordance with § 153.239 of this chapter.
      (17)   Low impact design, such as use of native vegetation, rain gardens and vegetated swales is encouraged.
   (C)   Buffer areas.
      (1)   A buffer area may be required where any use in a business or industrial district is adjacent to residentially zoned land and where multiple-family residential land uses are adjacent to land in the R1, R2, R2A and R4 Districts.
      (2)   A buffer area is not required if the qualifying adjacent zoning districts are separated by a public right-of-way.
      (3)   A buffer area shall be parallel to and follow the property line tangent to the qualifying zoning district.
      (4)   A buffer area shall be required even when the adjacent property is undeveloped.
      (5)   Except for access drives or private streets determined by the Planning Commission to be necessary to provide safe access to a property, a building, structure or parking lot shall not encroach within a required buffer area.
      (6)   When adjacent to a PUD containing a residential land use, a use in a non-residential or multiple-family residential district shall provide a buffer area along the property line adjacent to the residential use, in accordance with the requirements of Table 153.171(a). The Planning Commission, however, may waive or modify the required buffer if the setbacks and perimeter landscaping provided within the PUD meet the intent of division (A) above.
      (7)   Buffer areas are required as shown in Table 153.171(a). Buffer types 1, 2 and 3 are described in Table 153.171(b).
Table 153.171(a): Buffer Area Requirements by District
Subject Zoning District
Adjacent district
R1 (Buffer Type)
R2 (Buffer Type)
Residential areas in Charlevoix Township
Table 153.171(a): Buffer Area Requirements by District
Subject Zoning District
Adjacent district
R1 (Buffer Type)
R2 (Buffer Type)
Residential areas in Charlevoix Township
      (8)   Table 153.171(b) shows landscaping requirements by buffer type:
Table 153.171(b): Buffer Area Landscaping Requirements
Buffer Type
Minimum Width
Minimum Requirements
10 feet
2 canopy trees, plus 1 evergreen tree or 1 ornamental tree, plus 12 shrubs, for each 50 linear feet of buffer area
Most Intense
Least Intense
10 feet
1 canopy tree, plus 1 evergreen tree or 1 ornamental tree, plus 8 shrubs, for each 50 linear feet of buffer area
10 feet
1 canopy tree or 1 evergreen tree, plus 1 ornamental tree or 12 shrubs, for each 50 linear feet of buffer area
      (9)   Buffer Area Alternatives
         (a)   Plants may either be arranged formally, or be informally clustered for a more random, natural effect.
         (b)   Berms may be constructed in a buffer area to supplement landscaping and add interest. Minimum landscaping requirements shall be reduced by 50% where a berm at least three feet tall is constructed for at least 85% of the length of the buffer area.
         (c)   A screen wall or fence, located within a buffer area, may be used in lieu of some landscaping.
            1.   A screen wall or fence shall be six feet tall and constructed of architectural block, brick, wood, vinyl or textured concrete.
            2.   A screen wall or fence shall be located at least two feet from a property line.
            3.   To maximize the effectiveness of screening, openings shall not exceed 20% of the surface of a wall or fence.
            4.   When a screen wall or fence has both a finished and unfinished side, the finished side shall face either outward from the development site or to the side most visible to the general public, as determined by the Planning Commission.
            5.   Landscaping requirements may be reduced by 75% when a screen wall is constructed in a buffer area.
   (D)   Minimum plant requirements.
      (1)   The minimum plant size at the time of installation shall comply with Table 153.171(c):
Table 153.171(c): Minimum Plant Size at Installation
Plant Material
Minimum Caliper
Minimum Height
Minimum Spread
Canopy tree
Ornamental tree
Evergreen tree
      (2)   Existing healthy and desirable trees to be preserved may satisfy the landscaping regulations of this section, as shown in Table 153.171(d). Each credit may be applied toward fulfilling the requirements set forth in this section (i.e., one credit equal to one equivalent tree).
Table 153.171(d): Credit for Existing Landscaping
Tree Material
Minimum Caliper
Minimum Height
Table 153.171(d): Credit for Existing Landscaping
Tree Material
Minimum Caliper
Minimum Height
Canopy tree
4 to 8 inches
Greater than 8 inches
Ornamental tree
6 to 10 feet
Greater than 10 feet
Evergreen tree
6 to 12 feet
Greater than 12 feet
   (E)   Residential development.
      (1)   For each dwelling unit in a residential subdivision, land division or site condominium.
         (a)   One canopy tree shall be planted between the right-of-way line and the street.
         (b)   Trees shall be evenly spaced, except where site conditions warrant otherwise.
      (2)   For a multiple-family development, one canopy or evergreen tree shall be provided for every 4,500 square feet of gross lot area.
      (3)   In addition to the above requirements in division (D) above for a residential development abutting an arterial street, two evergreen trees and one canopy tree shall be planted within 30 feet of the right-of-way for every 50 feet of development frontage on the arterial street.
      (4)   Berms may also be used to buffer lots or dwellings from an abutting arterial street. Minimum landscaping requirements shall be reduced by 50% where a berm at least three feet tall is constructed for at least 85% of the length of the street frontage.
      (5)   In the R4 Zone, the Planning Commission may require berms, fencing or vegetative screening (or any combination thereof) along property lines for reasons including, but not limited to, protection of public safety, preservation of neighborhood character or the creation of privacy buffers for single-family zones.
   (F)   Non-residential and mixed use districts and non-residential uses in residential districts.
      (1)   For all non-residential uses in any zoning district except the CBD District, for every 100 feet of lot frontage as measured along a public right-of-way, the following front yard landscaping requirements apply.
         (a)   Three canopy trees and one evergreen or two ornamental trees shall be provided.
         (b)   The Planning Commission may allow landscaping anywhere within the front yard, except where a parking area is located along the lot frontage. In such instances landscaping shall be placed between the parking lot and the public right-of-way.
      (2)   Berms may be constructed in a front yard to supplement landscaping and enhance buffering. Minimum front yard landscaping requirements shall be reduced by 50% where a berm at least three feet tall is constructed between a parking lot located along a street frontage and the public right-of-way. A berm may also be used to meet the screening requirement for parking lots as required in division (H) below.
      (3)   For any permitted non-residential use in a residential district, the Buffer Type 2 requirements, as specified in Table 153.171(b), shall apply to all side and rear property lines.
   (G)   Outdoor storage areas. Where permitted, outdoor storage areas shall be completely screened by buildings, structures or a continuous buffer at least five feet wide. The buffer area shall include:
      (1)   A six-foot tall screen wall or fence along with any combination of the following to provide an effective screen, as approved by the Planning Commission:
         (a)   Berms;
         (b)   Canopy, evergreen and ornamental trees; and
         (c)   Shrubs.
      (2)   If a buffer to an adjacent zoning district is required, per Table 153.171(a), it shall satisfy the requirements of this division (G).
   (H)   Parking lot landscaping.
      (1)   A parking lot containing more than ten spaces shall be screened as follows:
         (a)   Along any right-of-way or residential property line by a continuous two and one-half to three-foot tall screen; and
         (b)   The screen shall consist of landscaping, berms, a screen wall or any combination of these elements.
      (2)   To provide shade and to break up the visual appearance of large paved areas, parking lots with more than ten spaces shall be landscaped based on the following requirements.
         (a)   One canopy tree for every 12 parking spaces shall be provided within a parking lot island or peninsula.
         (b)   Parking lot islands and peninsulas shall meet the following requirements:
            1.   All islands and peninsulas shall be protected by raised curbs; dub-downs are permitted to facilitate drainage, except in instances where the grading and drainage plan demonstrates storm water runoff can be managed without the use of raised curbs.
            2.   An island or peninsula shall be at least nine feet wide.
            3.   Islands or peninsulas may be combined for greater visual effect.
            4.   Trees shall be planted at least three feet from the edge of the curb or pavement.
            5.   Landscaping shall not obscure traffic signs, fire hydrants or sight distance within the parking lot and at driveway entrances, in accordance with § 153.142 of this chapter.
   (I)   Fencing, screening and walls.
      (1)   Screening shall be required around all trash dumpsters in all zoning districts, except as may be provided elsewhere in this section.
      (2)   Solid waste dumpsters may be located in required buffers; provided, they are screened in accordance with this division (I).
      (3)   Screening shall be required even if the surrounding area or adjacent properties are not developed.
      (4)   When a property changes to a more intense land use, a special land use or when site plan approval is required, screening shall be provided in accordance with this section.
      (5)   (a)   Unless otherwise permitted in accordance with this section, a screen shall consist of a solid, sight-obscuring fence or wall that meets the following specifications:
            1.   Six feet tall;
            2.   Enclosed on all sides and does not contain any openings other than an access gate, which shall be closed at all times when not being used. A screen around staging or loading/unloading areas may provide an opening that does not contain an access gate;
            3.   Constructed of masonry, treated wood or other materials approved by the Planning Commission and must be durable, weather-resistant, rust-proof and easily maintained; and
            4.   A trash dumpster enclosure and gates shall be protected by bollards or other means to prevent vehicle damage.
         (b)   If approved by the Planning Commission, a screen may consist of berms or landscaping either in combination or as a substitute for a fence or wall. It must be determined that the alternate design shall either provide the same degree, or enhanced screening as required by this section.
      (6)   (a)   Walls must be no greater than eight feet high.
         (b)   Must be a minimum of two feet back from the property line.
         (c)   Placement cannot interfere with pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
         (d)   Walls must be maintained and kept in good condition by the property owner.
   (J)   Landscape site plan requirements.
      (1)   Proposed landscaping shall be shown on a separate drawing at the same scale as the site plan. To ensure that landscaping is not affected by, nor interferes with utilities, the plan shall indicate any existing or proposed utilities and easements.
      (2)   Planting plans shall show all landscaped areas and plants listed in a table by common and botanic name and show quantities, size at planting and anticipated mature height and spread. Anticipated mature height and spread shall be shown with circles indicating anticipated plant size at maturity.
      (3)   Text shall accompany the landscape plan, providing calculations for the proposed landscaping and describing how the plan successfully complies with the regulations of this section.
      (4)   Existing natural and human-made landscape features and proposed buildings and structures, as required for the overall site plan, shall be clearly indicated
      (5)   Contours shall be shown at intervals no greater than two feet.
      (6)   Irrigation systems shall be shown.
      (7)   All other site development plan review standards, as set forth in §§ 153.230 through 153.243 of this chapter, shall be followed.
   (K)   Treatment of existing plant material. The following regulations shall apply to existing plants.
      (1)   Preservation of existing plant material. Site plans shall show all existing trees (four-inch caliper or greater) located in portions of the site that will be built upon or otherwise altered. Trees shall be labeled “To Be Removed” or “To Be Saved” on the site plan.
      (2)   Destruction or removal of healthy trees. In the event healthy plants that are intended to meet the requirements of this section are cut down, damaged or destroyed during construction, they shall be replaced.
(Prior Code, § 5.81)  (Ord. 791, passed 3-19-2018)  Penalty, see § 153.999