Will Co. forest preserve board asks $174,000 question
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org October 11, 2012 6:38PM
Marcy DeMauro, Executive Director of the Will County Forest Preserve District
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:26AM
JOLIET — The Will County Forest Preserve District is poised to spend $174,000 for a parcel of land that was acquired for $7,000 earlier this year by an Elmhust man who paid the property’s delinquent taxes.
It’s not clear if the district could have purchased the land for the cheaper amount, 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 staff explained that the lower estimate valued the land “as is” and the other used the “highest and best use.”
The board tabled the acquisition and asked staff to seek another appraisal.
The heavily wooded 17-acre parcel is in Crete Township along a tributary of Plum Creek and it’s adjacent to the district’s Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve.
DeMauro said the district has had its eye on the parcel since 1989. At that time, the owner didn’t want to sell and he said he planned to develop the land as he had an adjacent parcel.
The owner later died and 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 Crete Township parcel 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 2.5 years to repay the tax buyer what is owed plus the interest to clear their case and retain ownership of their land. If the 2.5 years elapse and the owner hasn’t redeemed the taxes, the tax buyer gets the land.
In the Crete Township parcel’s case, no one bought the back taxes at the December 2008 tax sale. So the case went to the county’s tax trustee as an “open certificate.” In March 2009, tax buyer Lyubomir Alexandrov of Elmhurst paid about $7,000 to buy the delinquent taxes on the Crete Township parcel. He waited the required length of time before petitioning a court to obtain the deed and ownership of the land, which was granted in January 2012.
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 of land 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 in a newspaper before the tax sale. And a list of properties that have open certificates also 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 that the district is interested in buying. She added that she isn’t sure what, if anything, happened in this case or if there was a missed opportunity.
She also explained that the district cannot participate in the December tax sale process because the board turn-around time is too slow to get approval to buy delinquent taxes.
Board members Kathleen Konicki, R-Homer Township, and Ann Dralle, R-Lemont, said they thought that 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.