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Friday, December 18, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - New seawalls may go up in Long Beach

Some quotes from a long story today by Richard Chambers in the Michigan City News Dispatch:

LONG BEACH — Concern about the rights of property owners compared to the rights of the public in regard to the beach's use is continuing in Long Beach.

The Long Beach Advisory Board of Zoning Appeals approved variances on Dec. 8 to allow three homeowners to build sea walls beyond the regular zoning. Zoning normally only allows new sea walls to be built up to 106.6 feet north of Lake Shore Drive.

The walls are wanted to protect the owners' septic systems.

The petitions drew many concerned residents at a special meeting on Nov. 24, and a full house came to the Town Hall for the vote on Dec. 8. Two of the sea-wall variances were approved 4-1, with member Peter Kelly giving the only dissenting vote, and another variance was approved 3-1, with Kelly opposing and Chairman Rich Crain abstaining.

The walls have to be only 5 feet high, be sand-colored and have dune grass on the north side. However, the homeowners still have to go to the Building Commission and obtain permits.

The board granted two of the three petitions exactly as they were requested. However, one of the requests was to allow a sea wall to be built 137.9 feet from Lake Shore Drive but the length was reduced to 120 feet, or a variance of slightly more than 13 feet.

The petitions resulted from concerns about the change to the beach, especially removal of sand after storms in October of 2012 and October of 2014, and about the existing sea walls' age of more than 50 years.

More from the story:

Among those opposed to these walls is the Long Beach Community Alliance. The alliance's main concern is whether the walls would even be on the owners' property, according to Pat Sharkey, the alliance's attorney.

The land of Long Beach follows an 1829 survey, she said.

The petitioners did not properly demonstrate whether their property extends to where these new walls would be built when they presented their requests to the board, Sharkey said. Therefore, she said, the alliance may consider legal action if permits are granted.

She referenced the decision of Judge Richard Stalbrink of La Porte County Superior Court No. 2 on July 24. Although the decision is noted for his ruling on the ordinary high water mark, he also said ownership has to be limited to what is described in the deed.

"As a matter of interpretation, and common sense, if a lot is carved from within a section, the boundaries of that lot can be no greater than those of the section from which it is carved," Stalbrink wrote.

The lot in that case involved property from section 15, but the principle applies to any section, Sharkey argued.

The deeds of the properties in question define the property as section 14 of the original plat of Long Beach, Sharkey said. The property owners should use the 1829 survey; if they can show their property is in section 14, the alliance would not consider opposing their ownership claim.

Carla Fargo is working with a separate group of Long Beach residents who want to protect the beach from construction that may, in their opinion, harm the beach. These sea walls would result in more erosion on adjacent properties, she said.

She argued that the sea walls will not work. She said scientific studies have shown sea walls do not stop erosion, and the walls become buried, she said.

She also argued that the property owners could have known, based on beach history, the risk they took when they put the septic systems there. Until the last few years, septic systems could not be on the lakeside, she added.

Fargo expected to sue if any building permits were issued.

See these ILB posts from July 27 and July 28 on Judge Richard Stalbrink's July 24th opinion on the Lake Michigan high water mark.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 18, 2015 01:03 PM
Posted to Indiana Government