Thursday, October 17, 2013
Ind. Courts - "Long Beach court case could set precedent in lakefront property rights" [Updated]
Fascinating. Does the ownership of Lake Michigan beach property extend to the water's edge? John Robbins has a long story today in the Gary Post-Tribune. It begins:
A court case that could set a precedent for all owners of Lake Michigan beach property will begin Thursday in LaPorte County Circuit Court.This is much more of interest in the lengthy Post-Tribune story.
Judge Thomas Alevizos will hear arguments on a request for summary judgment on beach property rights in a suit filed against the town of Long Beach by Long Beach lakefront residents.
Margaret West and Don Gunderson, along with the Long Beach Lakefront Homeowners Association, have sued Long Beach to overturn a town resolution that restricts police enforcement of private property ordinances, such as trespassing. They also want the court to clarify their property rights.
“What happens here may affect every other piece of property along the shoreline,” said Robert Schaefer, Long Beach Town Council president.
Long Beach is a small community with million dollar homes hugging the Lake Michigan shoreline. The town council recently passed a resolution restricting police from enforcing private property ordinances along the lakefront between the water’s edge and what is called the “ordinary high water mark.”
Gunderson and the homeowners’ association contend their property rights extend to the water’s edge and they have the deeds to prove it. The town’s policy of not enforcing property laws in that zone “is like saying ‘I’m taking control of your backyard,’” said Gunderson.
The town resolution was drafted following an Indiana Department of Natural Resource directive that indicates that the land below the high-water mark, legally defined as 581.5 feet above sea level, is public property, according to Schaefer.
Patrick Cannon, board member of the recently formed Long Beach Community Alliance, cites a 1978 Indiana attorney general’s office opinion claiming state ownership of the land between the water’s edge and the high-water mark.
The ILB has not done an extensive search, but here are some earlier entries on Great Lakes landowners' property rights:
- May 17, 2004 - "Law - Michigan Court gives lakeshore landowners rights to water's edge"
- Feb. 28, 2005 - "Law - More on access to Great Lake's beaches"
- July 31, 2005 - "Law - Right to walk along Michigan's Lake Michigan shoreline"
[Update] I'm told there is no relevant 1978 AG opinion.
From this 1990 opinion by AG Lindley Pearson:
The State of Indiana owns the land 1akewards of the ordinary high water mark on the Lake Michigan shore to the northern boundaries of the State in Lake Michigan.ILB: No further authority is cited for the "State of Indiana owns" statement.
Public rights to use Lake Michigan are governed by Federal and State statutes, regulations and rules.
H/T to our Supreme Court librarians.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 17, 2013 10:48 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts