Will County Forest Preserve District buying Crete Township land at huge markup
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain Sun-Times Media October 12, 2012 8:40AM
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:33AM
The Will County Forest Preserve District is poised to spend $174,000 for a parcel that was acquired earlier this year by an Elmhust man who had paid $7,000 in delinquent property taxes on the land.
It’s not clear if the district could have bought the land for less, but the question came up at Thursday’s board meeting and now Executive Director Marcy DeMauro said she will research what happened.
Board members also questioned why two appraisals of the property are vastly different: One estimates the land is worth $3,150 an acre, and the other says it’s worth $10,000 an acre.
District officials said the lower estimate valued the land “as is” and the other used the “highest and best use.”
The board postponed buying the land Thursday and asked district employees to seek another appraisal.
The heavily wooded 17-acre parcel is in Crete Township along a tributary of Plum Creek and is adjacent to the district’s Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve.
DeMauro said the district has had its eye on the land since 1989. At that time, the owner didn’t want to sell and said he planned to develop the land as he had an adjacent parcel.
The owner later died, his land was caught in an “acrimonious” estate squabble and the heirs did not want to sell to the district, DeMauro said.
According to the Will County treasurer’s office, the 2007 property taxes on the land weren’t paid when they were due in 2008. No tax buyer bought the back taxes at a tax sale in December 2008.
Tax buyers pay back taxes so taxing bodies get their money. They bid how much interest they will charge the owner for paying the back taxes, and the lowest interest rate wins.
Property owners have 2-1/2 years to repay the tax buyer what is owed plus the interest to clear their case and retain ownership of their land. If that time period elapses and the owner hasn’t paid, the tax buyer gets the land.
In the case of the Crete Township land, because no one bought the back taxes in December 2008, the case went to the county’s tax trustee. In March 2009, tax buyer Lyubomir Alexandrov of Elmhurst paid about $7,000 to buy the delinquent taxes on the land.
The landowners did not pay him back in the required amount of time, so he acquired ownership of the land in January of this year. Alexandrov then entered negotiations with the forest preserve district to sell the land for $174,000.
If no one buys the delinquent taxes on a parcel it is sold at a summer tax auction. But that didn’t happen in this case because Alexandrov snapped it up first.
Julie Shetina, assistant deputy treasurer, said a list of all properties with delinquent taxes is published before the tax sale. And a list of properties sent to the county tax trustee is public.
“If they would have inquired at any point in time ... we would have explained to them the process,” Shetina said of forest preserve district staff.
DeMauro said her staff understand the process and there are employees dedicated to looking for tax sale properties. She said she isn’t sure what, if anything, happened in this case.
She also explained that the district cannot participate in the December tax sale process because it takes the forest preserve board too long to approve a purchase to meet the deadlines for buying delinquent taxes.
Board members Kathleen Konicki, R-Homer Township, and Ann Dralle, R-Lemont, said they thought the issue had been resolved several years ago and that the district was monitoring tax sale lists so it wouldn’t miss out on bargains.
“It really should not happen again,” Dralle said.