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Lawsuits & Litigation

Indiana Homeowners File Lawsuit Over Access to Lake Michigan Beaches

— December 8, 2019

Three Indiana homeowners are suing over the right to Lake Michigan beach access.

Three lakefront homeowners in the town of Porter recently renewed its battle over access to Lake Michigan beaches. In a lawsuit filed yesterday at the federal district court in Hammond, the property owners are seeking to “undo the Indiana Supreme Court’s landmark 2018 Gunderson v. State ruling that held Indiana owns, and always has, the shoreline of Lake Michigan up to the ordinary high-water mark.”

Sand dune on Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Park
Sand dune on Lake Michigan at Indiana Dunes National Park; image courtesy of Dixi via Wikimedia Commons,

According to the 2018 ruling, individuals are entitled to enter the area under question to “access the water for the traditional purposes of navigation, commerce or fishing.” Additionally, the court ruled that “at a minimum, walking on the beach is a protected public use, and the Indiana General Assembly can guarantee additional recreational uses for the beach.” However, the plaintiffs in Thursday’s lawsuit argue the 2018 court decision “unlawfully took away their private beaches on Lake Michigan, without compensation.” As a result, they want the court to prevent Indiana from enforcing the 2018 ruling so they can have control over who “uses their beaches near their homes,” according to the suit.

As part of their suit, the property owners are using their property deeds to show that their ownership extends “beyond the lake’s ordinary high water mark and historical records of lakefront land sales that contained property now recognized as state-owned, including land purchased for what now is Indiana Dunes National Park.” The suit states:

The Gunderson decision was an abrupt change in state law that unsettled plaintiffs’ property rights. The Indiana Supreme Court ignored not only its own precedent, but Indiana’s history.”

The suit itself was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a nonprofit property rights organization, on behalf of the property owners, which include “Randall and Kimberley Pavlock, owners of Hunter Properties, a Chicago property management and brokerage company; and Raymond Cahnman, chairman of the TransMarket Group trading firm and a former director of the Chicago Board of Trade.” According to records, Pavlocks and Cahnman “own properties on Duneland Drive in Porter just west of the beach parking lot at Indiana Dunes State Park.”

When commenting on the recent lawsuit, the office of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. said it is reviewing the Porter lawsuit and “pledged to vigorously defend the interests of the state of Indiana.”

Hill is named as one of the defendants in the suit, along with “Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, Department of Natural Resources Director Cameron Clark, and Tom Laycock, acting director of the State Land Office.”

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes also chimed in on the matter. As a candidate for Indiana attorney general, she said she “expects the state will file a motion to dismiss and that should end the case since it’s a state law issue and Indiana’s highest court already has ruled.” She added:

This property was not taken from them because they never owned it. I can write up a deed and sell you the Brooklyn Bridge — doesn’t mean I own it.”


New lawsuit again seeks to limit public access to Lake Michigan beaches

3 Indiana homeowners aim to limit Lake Michigan beach access

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