Column: Improving personal property rights

Guest Columnist

There are some counties in Indiana that have no zoning requirements, allowing homeowners to build anywhere they want without having to comply with local regulations. However, because there is no county zoning, there is no county official to help people be aware of state and federal building regulations.

In February 2017, about 20 cabin owners in Shoals received letters from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources saying they must vacate and destroy their cabins without compensation because they violated state and federal flood regulations.

A second round of letters was sent in April 2019 saying if the cabin owners did not comply, they would be charged a $1,000 fine, followed by a daily $500 fine.

The cabin owners brought their concerns to their state legislators, which resulted in the drafting and passage of Senate Enrolled Act 433 last session.

SEA 433 prohibits the DNR from exercising the authority to remove a cabin or residence from a floodway if the structure was built before Jan. 1, 2020 and if the owner has taken necessary measures to comply with all local, state and federal floodway regulations. The owner must also elevate the lowest floor of the structure to at least two feet above the one-hundred-year flood elevation within two years of notification from the DNR.

Some of these cabins had been built years ago as family gathering places, others had been carefully saved for retirement retreats. SEA 433 grandfathers in every location, all structures like this that were in existence prior to the first of this year, protecting them from being destroyed.

Each elected official represents a district made up of individual Hoosiers with unique needs, and this legislation is a great example of how the General Assembly is here to serve the people of Indiana. It's important for all elected officials, including myself, to respond to the needs and priorities of our constituents in order to protect our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As always, feel free to contact my office directly with your questions and concerns by email at or by phone at 800-382-9467.

Mark Messmer is a Republican state senator from Jasper.

More on