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Zero Tolerance For Interlopers In Ogden Dunes Indiana

July 12, 2011 by · 5 Comments 

OgdenDunesReggae Party_circa 1998_by SteveCardwellAlthough the Supreme Court made their decision, controversy still swirls around the decision in Ogden Dunes to abolish all property rentals of less than one month in duration. While weekly vacation rentals is common practice in many waterfront localities, Ogden Dunes residents found the insecurity of a revolving door of new people regularly popping up next door to be too much.

“We don’t want to become a RESORT community” became the mantra.

Like many towns with water access Ogden Dunes has a certain percentage of seasonal homes which remain vacant part of the year. Some year-round residents complained of loud parties and rowdy behavior, focusing on the weekend homeowners as the source of the problem.  But calling police for a disturbance was not enough. So in 2007 an ordinance was passed to stabilize the community by taking away the ability to rent a home for less than one month.  The Ordinance targeted about 6 owners who were engaging in the practice. The Post Tribune recently published a back story synopsis of the case.

The crux of the matter came down to the tactile issue of whether people felt safe and secure versus the rights of owners to freely use their homes as they saw fit–to make extra income.

In the 4-1 Court decision it came down to some definitions and semantic interpretations. It was clear that these were commercial transactions. Leases and contracts had been signed, deposits and rents collected, advertising on the VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner) web site had been used to hook up the buyer and sellers.

The only grey are for the court to sort through was the definition of  “Single Family Dwelling” which according to the Town Ordinance meant “―a separate detached building designed for and occupied exclusively as a residence by one family.”

Siwinski_CourtMasthead_bySteveCardwellThe Court ruling goes on further:

“From our reading of the definition, the critical phrase to interpret is ―exclusively as a residence by one family.  The Siwinskis interpret the phrase to mean that ―exclusively as a residence–does not prohibit them from renting their home to multiple families. The Siwinskis argue the home is still used for things such as eating and sleeping and other things typically associated with a family residence. Furthermore, the Siwinskis interpret ―by one family–to mean one family at a time, as opposed to multiple families living in a home at the same time. Conversely, the Town argues the phrase ―exclusively as a residence by one family– suggests a dwelling intended to be used by only one family as a residence, and not rented to another family for a profit. The Town argues the Siwinskis are not exclusively using the residence, as they are sometimes using the residence and other times renting out the residence for profit.”

In the opinion of the Court:

“Our State has recognized that the purpose of zoning ordinances is―to confine certain classes of uses and structures to designated areas…. It is clear that the Town intended to have certain classes of uses in designated areas, by designating a Residential District and a Commercial District in its ordinances.”

Personal Note: 

So it is now official, Ogden Dunes is not going to be a resort community. We can all sleep easier knowing that.  As a 22 year resident (now a former resident) of Ogden Dunes, I know lots of folklore and background on the homes and residents of this Town. Some people might try to convince you that Ogden Dunes is some kind of utopian dream. It’s just another very nice place you might consider calling home.  If you are seeking a unique,  and pastoral Porter County community, close to the Dunes, it’s special natural ecosystem,  and the miracle of Lake Michigan, you might find Ogden Dunes to your liking. I would be happy to be your tour guide and buyers agent as you search for the best home to choose in this unique and rare enclave.

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Steve Cardwell

Steve Cardwell is an Indiana Realtor working with residential buyers and sellers throughout Northwest Indiana. He likes to stay current on the housing market by analyzing real estate trends with a focus on the towns of Highland and Munster Indiana. His broker affiliation is Red Key Realty Leaders in St John, Indiana. Learn more about Steve and visit www.SteveCardwell.com.

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5 Responses to “Zero Tolerance For Interlopers In Ogden Dunes Indiana”
  1. Although Ogden Dunes Indiana has not officially become a resort community, it has some nice environmental qualities to make it a desirable beach community. It is safe to say that many communities do not have the desire to have transient housing within their communities.

  2. Ogden Dunes is definitely a “unique and rare enclave.” I visited a number of homes in Ogden Dunes last night with clients from Fort Wayne looking to move into the area. The people are friendly and the natural beauty is astounding! It is a community worth looking into!

  3. John MacDougall says:

    The article is factually incorrect. Now new ordinance was passed by Ogden Dunes in 2007 regarding rentals. The lawsuit was over the interpretation of the language of the ordinance as it has existed since the 1960’s. There was no dispute over whether Ogden Dunes had the right to pass an ordinance against rentals. The dispute was over whether the already existing ordinance, which in fact makes no mention whatsoever of rentals at all, could be unambiguously interpreted to prohibit rentals.

    If a new ordinance had been passed in 2007, it would not have applied to the half dozen existing rental properties, which would have been “grandfathered” in their existing use.

    What commentators seem to be missing as well is that the Indiana Supreme Court decision made no distinction as to the length of the rental, which was supposedly the crux of the matter. The Court did not merely prohibit rentals of less than 30 days. While Ogden Dunes had generally argued that they did not wish to prohibit monthly rentals, and had attempted in their lawsuit to distinguish rentals of less than 30 days, the Court brushed off the Town’s reasoning regarding the 30 day distinction and simply addressed rentals without regard to length.

    Nor is the decision limited in application to Ogden Dunes. By the language of the decision, all rentals of single family homes in single family zones in the State of indiana, for any length of time, are now illegal, unless the local ordinance specifically allows rentals, which most do not.

  4. John, thanks for pointing out some of the legal nuances that I did not fully grasp. If what you say is true, then the implications of this case fundamentally alter the way we understand our property rights. Most homeowners expect that they have the right to rent out their home should they experience relocation or other hardship. If this case overturns that common understanding, the results will be far-reaching for any homeowner who lives in any community that has zoning. Am I understanding your point correctly?
    The repercussions beg addressing many additional questions for Indiana:
    Was the intent of the Ogden Dunes Town Council was to prohibit ALL rentals? Do you think the citizens at large understood that their action would be so restrictive and pernicious toward current and potential landlords? Do you foresee a wave of legal action across the State as unanticipated consequences?

  5. John MacDougall says:

    Steve, Yes, I think it is quite shocking that the court seemed unaware of the potentially much farther reaching precedent it appears to have set. Defining rentals, regardless of length, as multi-family and commercial is at odds with previous precedent, with the expectations of most owners, and with common practice. The court ruling appears to have gone beyond what even Ogden Dunes tried to assert. What will come of that is anyone’s guess. Because enforcement of zoning restrictions is almost always in response to complaints, it remains to be seen whether somone, in Ogden Dunes or elsewhere, will complain about longer rentals and what would come of that. One of the unfortunate aspects of the result is uncertainty, and uncertainty goes counter to legal principle. A reasonable person should be able to determine whether an action is legal or not, else laws are capricious.

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