Contentious real estate investor owns Gary scrap yard fire site

November 16, 2014 Posted by admin

The owner of the Gary property where a scrapper’s burning trash sparked a nine-day fire at a neighboring business earlier this month said he did not know about the open burning routinely taking place by the lessee.

“Not until I heard about the fire starting and a neighbor called me,” Andrew L. Young said.

It could be Young simply has a hard time keeping track of activities on his real estate investments.

The property at 306 N. Clark Road is just one of the 1,778 in Lake County owned by Young and his many corporations. The properties are primarily located in Gary and Calumet Township.

Young lists his home address in Wadsworth, Ill., a Chicago suburb near the Wisconsin border. 

Young operates several property businesses with various names, including Surplus Management Systems LLC, DAY Investments LLC, Gary II LLC and Gold Coast Rand Development Corp. Most list the same Wadsworth or Gurnee, Ill. address, according to Lake County Treasurer’s office records.

Those records show Young’s DAY Investments, of Gurnee, owes $34,573 in back taxes on the property at 306 N. Clark Ave.

Young admits he is delinquent in the payments, but said the county and the Calumet Township Assessor’s office are at fault, not him.

“In short, the Calumet Township Assessor has everything completely screwed up and as a result, they have destroyed the city of Gary,” Young said in an email to The Times.

Young believes the property should have an assessed value of about half of its current assessment.

The dispute comes after Young sued Lake County in bankruptcy court in 2009, alleging a host of assessment errors. He said overly-inflated land values unfairly target real estate investors like him who are looking to turn Gary around.

Young and the county entered into a court-ordered settlement that required Young to pay nearly $1 million to the county and halted efforts to collect the remaining $7.8 million in back taxes and delinquency fees prior to the 2010 year.

Mike Wieser, finance director for the Lake County auditor’s office, said Young has paid little if any in property taxes since the settlement, with tax delinquency fines and back taxes on all of the 1,778 properties dating back to 2012.

His current bills to the county total more than $450,000, Wieser said.

“He pretty much never pays anything,” Wieser said. “Then, he files bankruptcy and that takes him off the tax rolls.”

Wieser said Young appeals each assessment he receives on his properties, “because he knows Cal Township can’t keep up with that kind of work load.”

Young admitted he is not current on his taxes, but said the county is to blame, not him.

“We complied with our portion of the settlement agreement but the county didn’t,” Young said.

Young said one of his many bankruptcy attorneys who primarily handled the Lake County case was undergoing surgery on Thursday and was unavailable for comment on the issue. That attorney, he said, would not be available for several weeks.

The settlement states the properties moving forward would be classified the same as all other Lake County properties.

Young maintains there are disparities in the assessed valuations for his properties and others in Gary and Calumet Township. He said a nearly identical parcel to the site of the fire at 306 N. Clark Road — with similar acreage, woodlands and wetlands — is valued at $76,200. His property in 2013 had an assessed valuation of $215,400.

He believes it is worth $124,000.

“This type of disparity of neighboring and nearly identical parcels is pervasive township-wide,” Young said in the email to The Times. “These vast differences in assessed valuations upon nearly identical properties should in no way be considered an isolated situation.

Wieser said Young’s methodologies are flawed.

“There’s not very many properties in Lake County where the people who own it get to tell you what it is worth,” Wieser said.

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