MASGC Project Impacts

Gulf Shores, Alabama, adopts overlay zone to encourage establishment of waterway village


Gulf Shores, Alabama, has experienced significant challenges in recent years, including damaging hurricanes and oil spill impacts to its beaches. Gulf Shores recognizes the critical need to diversify its economy and encourage development and investment away from the popular Gulf Coast beaches. In 2010, the Gulf Shores City Planner attended a Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant outreach workshop on planning techniques to preserve and enhance working waterfronts. Following the workshop, the Gulf Shores Planning and Zoning Department began exploring the creation of a waterfront development plan on the Intracoastal Waterway. As with any new planning initiative, a number of legal and regulatory questions had to be addressed before the City’s vision could be implemented.


At the request of Gulf Shores, the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Outreach Program and its legal specialists conducted research on ways to encourage the return of water-dependent businesses along the Intracoastal Waterway. Specifically, the research focused on two key components of Gulf Shore’s development plan:  establishment of a seafood market/exchange and the creation of a pedestrian greenway along the waterfront. MASGC legal specialists identified regulations for seafood markets and exchanges and potential issues and challenges with getting them started. They also researched issues associated with creating a pedestrian pathway, and provided examples of language used in other cities to address working waterfronts in local policies.


As a result of this partnership, Gulf Shores became the first community in Alabama to adopt a local ordinance to preserve waterfront heritage. In 2012, the Gulf Shores Planning and Zoning Commission approved a historic downtown overlay district called the “Waterway Village.” The Waterway Village District Overlay defines working waterfronts within the district and includes specific language that protects, preserves and advances the traditional culture of working waterfronts. This new overlay zone will allow for the re-establishment of certain types of water-dependent businesses that historically were part of the waterfront.


With legal research and outreach support from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Gulf Shores, Alabama, adopted an overlay zone to increase access to and encourage re-establishment of water-dependent businesses on the Intracoastal Waterway. (2014)