Merrillville begins effort to retake 28-acre parcel inadvertently included in tax sale
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent October 9, 2013 5:44PM
Updated: October 10, 2013 3:51PM
MERRILLVILLE — The Town Council has instructed its attorney to begin condemnation proceedings to reacquire a 28-acre parcel in The Preserve subdivision that was dedicated to the town and is intended to be used as open space and for drainage.
The parcel was acquired in 2010 by Xavier Research Institute LTD, of Chicago, in a Lake County treasurer’s tax sale for $250. The principal of the company has been attempting to develop the parcel since then and harassing some nearby homeowners who have erected swing sets, sheds and other items on a portion of that property, attorney John Bushemi said.
Bushemi said Xavier hasn’t filed any formal requests with the town since zoning director Dorinda Gregor informed him repeatedly that the lot can’t be built on.
The town has been trying to reacquire the land that was inadvertently included in the tax sale, offering Xavier Research Institute $1,000 to purchase it in July. Bushemi said he has yet to receive a response to the offer.
“The reason we offered him $1,000 was to entice him to dedicate the property back to the town and so the residents wouldn’t be harassed,” Bushemi said.
But Xavier Research filed trespassing lawsuits against some homeowners and one couple recently had a $10,000 judgment entered against them by Lake Superior Court Judge Julie Cantrell, a move that frustrated Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, who lives in The Preserve and caused him to call for the condemnation proceedings to begin.
“I’m not messing around with this guy anymore. These folks got a $10,000 judgment issued by Judge Cantrell. I don’t know how that happened,” Pettit said.
Bushemi said the condemnation is a necessary and legal action by the town. He said it’s permitted when property is needed for public use.
“This property benefits every resident of that subdivision,” Bushemi said.
Bushemi said he doesn’t think the person behind Xavier is vicious or retaliatory in his actions.
“His purpose is to make money. He wants every dollar he can get,” Bushemi said. “But the town will get that land back. It will just take a few months.”
He said before condemnation proceedings can begin the property needs to be appraised to determine its fair market value.