ILNews

Court rules on 2 water-related cases

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Court of Appeals decided two environmental cases today involving issues pertaining to lake levels and the rights lakefront property owners enjoy.

In Center Townhouse Corp., et al. v. City of Mishawaka, No. 71A04-0612-CV-707, the court tackled an issue it hasn't specifically dealt with before and decided not to expand Indiana's riparian rights, or those privileges extended to waterfront property owners, to include the right of unobstructed view of the water.

A group of eight townhome owners brought an inverse condemnation action against the city and local parks board after it constructed a pedestrian bridge over the St. Joseph River as part of a riverwalk project. The trial court had determined the city took property interests belonging to the community and owners without just compensation, but a jury returned a no-damage verdict. Owners appealed for damages and the city cross-appealed, arguing that a taking of rights had not even occurred. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's rulings.

The appellate court analyzed state statute but determined the law isn't completely clear about what's entailed in riparian rights as far as unobstructed views. Judges relied on caselaw from Michigan, Florida, New Jersey, and Georgia that has addressed this issue and adopted those as legally protected rights.

"Landowners urge us to follow suit and hold that, in Indiana, riparian rights include the right to an unobstructed view of the water creating those riparian rights such that a loss of view is compensable in an inverse condemnation action," Judge James Kirsch wrote. "After careful consideration, we are unwilling to do so. Deciding the scope of a landowner's view (how high, how far, from what vantage point, etc.), and, if obstructed in some way for some reason, determining how much obstruction is too much, is inappropriate, if not impossible for this court."

Rather, the court pointed out that this is a policy decision best left to legislators who can work with state resource officials and local planning officials to make the best decisions.

"Those authorities, not an appellate court, should decide on proper views over and across neighboring properties and waterways, as they are in the best position to prescribe reasonable restrictions in order to protect people who have paid large sums of money in order to border Indiana's lakes, rivers, and streams," Judge Kirsch wrote.

A second decision today in Larry Bowyer d/b/a Lakes Limited Liability Corp. v. Indiana Department of Natural Resources, No. 09A02-0612-CV-1116, involves the water level of Lake Cicott in Cass County. The DNR filed a complaint against Bowyer, who'd been dumping construction debris into the public lake and altering its shoreline and water level without a permit. The trial court determined the lake was public, not a private lake as the parties had argued, and was subject to the DNR's regulation of its water level.

The appellate court affirms that decision, while indicating the state statute doesn't clearly map the process for determining what a lake level should be. The court determined Bowyer's contentions are without merit.
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  1. Such things are no more elections than those in the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

  2. It appears the police and prosecutors are allowed to change the rules halfway through the game to suit themselves. I am surprised that the congress has not yet eliminated the right to a trial in cases involving any type of forensic evidence. That would suit their foolish law and order police state views. I say we eliminate the statute of limitations for crimes committed by members of congress and other government employees. Of course they would never do that. They are all corrupt cowards!!!

  3. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  4. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  5. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

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