Merrillville won’t offer more for parcel mistakenly listed in tax sale
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent February 11, 2014 10:10PM
Updated: February 12, 2014 2:03AM
MERRILLVILLE — Town officials have decided not to move forward with condemnation proceedings against the man who purchased town property in The Preserve subdivision at a county tax sale.
“We’ll let it ride,” Councilman Shawn Pettit, D-6th, said after Tuesday night’s council meeting.
The buyer, Antonio Alvarez, owner of Xavier Research Institute LTD in Chicago, bought the 28-acre parcel for $250 in 2010 and has refused the town’s latest offer of $58,600, deemed the fair market value by a qualified appraiser, according to town attorney John Bushemi.
“He didn’t feel it was a fair value for the property,” Pettit said of Alvarez.
“A 23,000 percent return on an investment is ridiculous,” Pettit said.
Bushemi said Alvarez did not indicate how much money he wanted for the property. Alvarez told the Post-Tribune last fall that the property was assessed at $65,000.
Alvarez’s attorney, Richard Shapiro of Schererville, has said he won’t comment on pending cases.
The property, located in the subdivision off Mississippi Street, behind Southlake Mall, is mostly wetlands and is intended to be used for drainage purposes. It was inadvertently placed in a Lake County tax sale in 2010.
Pettit also said The Preserve property owners who have been taken to court by Alvarez for trespassing will have to hire their own legal representation. Alvarez claims the sheds, fences and other items the neighbors built encroached on his property.
“I’ll do what I can for the people short of having John (Bushemi) represent them,” Pettit said.
Pettit said Alvarez may discover maintaining the land to required standards and developing it may not be so easy.
“He will have to maintain the property according to stormwater standards, and I understand they will be getting more stringent,” Pettit said.
Pettit said the land is now zoned for a residential planned unit development, which would have to be amended to allow for development there.
“The amendment would have to go before the plan commission and the town council. I sit on both and I won’t support it,” he said.