MERRILLVILLE | The town is pursuing condemnation proceedings to acquire property in the Preserve subdivision off Mississippi Street.
The situation was discussed last week during a Town Council meeting.
Town Attorney John Bushemi said Xavier Research Institute obtained the property south of U.S. 30 for $250 in 2010 from Lake County.
In July, Merrillville offered Xavier Research $1,000 to purchase the land, but Merrillville hasn't received a response, Bushemi said.
The Town Council last week decided to seek condemnation proceedings to obtain the property, which Bushemi said is critical to Merrillville and the Preserve subdivision for drainage purposes.
Antonio Alvarez, the owner of Xavier Research, said he wasn't aware the property was up for discussion. He said he would have attended last week's meeting had he received prior notification.
Bushemi said Alvarez's attendance wouldn't have altered the council's action. Alvarez said the town's $1,000 offer for the land is well below its value, and it wouldn't even cover the amount he has paid in property taxes.
According to the Lake County assessor's office website, the assessed value of the land is more than $60,000.
Alvarez also said the property was listed in Lake County tax sales multiple times before he acquired it, so Merrillville had opportunities to obtain the land before he did.
Bushemi confirmed the land was on tax sale before Alvarez bought it, but Merrillville was unaware it had been listed.
Merrillville officials said lawsuits Xavier Research filed against Preserve homeowners, who have items encroaching on the property, also prompted the condemnation proceedings.
Alvarez said he had the property surveyed, which indicated sheds, gardens and other items were on his property. He said he sent letters on three occasions to Preserve homeowners explaining he is the current owner of the land and asking residents to remove the items from his property.
Alvarez said town officials also were notified of the encroachment issues.
Councilman Shawn Pettit said he won't tolerate the lawsuits against Preserve homeowners.
Alvarez said he can't allow the encroachments to continue because of liability issues. He also thinks it's "ironic" the town is defending residents who trespass on private property.