OGDEN DUNES | If visitors want to rent a house on the beach, they'd better plan on staying awhile.
A ruling in Porter Superior Court confirmed what town administrators have been saying for years: this beachfront town is a residential community and short-term home rentals violate town code.
"We believe anything (rented for) under 30 consecutive days is in violation," said Town Attorney Chuck Lukmann, adding they are a commercial operation in a residential district.
Violators face steep fines if they want to turn their homes into hotels. The court order, signed June 17 by Porter Superior Court Judge Mary Harper, allows the town to fine violators up to $10,000 for each separate incident.
Lukmann said the practice had gone on for several years. Homes were advertised on web sites and often rented out for a weekend in which they would become "party houses" and disturb neighbors.
Town Council President Brad Wood said the Town Council sent out cease-and-desist orders to those they knew were in violation of town code.
"Some people thumbed their noses at it," he said.
In 2007 the Town Council got serious, warned those renting their homes as short-term vacation spots and then took Steven and Lauren Siwinski to court for violating the town code.
At that point, said Wood, some people stopped the practice, but others continued, thinking the town would lose the case.
But, the town didn't.
"(Those still providing short-term rentals) need to cease immediately," said Wood, adding those who may still be operating, will be identified and will be cited.
"This one is for the residents of the town: a town decides what is the character of the town and the town of Ogden Dunes decided the character of this community is residential," said Lukmann, adding the decision in favor of Ogden Dunes could have implications for other lakefront communities that have defined their communities with the same character.