Albert and Rosemary Dostal are at odds with city of Countryside regarding nine acres of land they want to sell. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Albert and Rosemary Dostal are at odds with city of Countryside regarding nine acres of land they want to sell. (Photo by Steve Metsch)

Couple, Countryside at odds over land sale 

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By Steve Metsch 

Albert and Rosemary Dostal want to sell their empty land in Countryside. But they are finding that a difficult task.

The couple, which lives in the 9500 block of 56th Street, owns nine wooded acres south of 57th Street and west of La Grange Road.

It’s been in the family for 50 years, purchased by Albert’s late father.

A few years ago, the couple found a potential buyer who wanted to build 23 single-family homes there. That went nowhere.

Albert said the offer received from the home builder in 2017 “was a pretty good price” and was more than $2 million.

Last year, they found a potential buyer who wanted to build an assisted living center for low-income seniors, giving Countryside residents first dibs. That went nowhere.

The assisted senior living project proposed in 2022 “would help the city and have less traffic than 23 houses,” Albert said. “This was a great opportunity.”

Rosemary, 55, and Albert, 65, say the city of Countryside has been reluctant to work with them to approve a land sale, and that the city has its own plans for the property.

The couple received a letter dated April 18, 2022, from the city in which the city stated “it desires to acquire the real estate for park purposes.”

Countryside offered the couple $2 million for the nine acres, and threatened – if no reply was received in 10 days – to proceed with eminent domain to acquire the property on the land.

The Dostals replied to the city on April 26, 2022, through their lawyer, James Wagner, that the city’s offer is based on one appraisal and asked for a copy to evaluate the offer.

Nothing of substance has happened since other than “numerous phone calls between our attorney and their attorney,” Albert said.

Countryside Mayor Sean McDermott said the city has not stood in the way of any development, adding that potential buyers have not gone through the proper steps.

“We are allowing them (to sell). If they come back to the city of Countryside with a proposal, we will entertain their proposal and look at it. They have not brought a proposal to us. We are not prohibiting them from selling their property,” he said.

Asked about the 2022 letter from the city, he said, “we don’t discuss real estate transactions.”

Rosemary asked about the land during the public comment portion of the city council meeting on Feb. 8.

“The offer was way below the market value,” she said of the city’s $2 million offer.

“Now I have this eminent domain hovering over me. If the city is no longer interested in the property, I want that in writing so I can go ahead and pursue buyers or myself to develop the property,” she told the council.

McDermott said “we’ll have further conversations with you, Rose.”

Albert said the senior assisted living idea would have been a good addition to the city.

In an interview at their home on Feb. 13, Rosemary said she was told the city did not want to meet with her to discuss the land “because it’s under negotiation.”

Eminent domain has not been exercised, “so we’re in limbo,” Rosemary said. “To me, why do you want to go through costly litigation?”

She’s concerned potential buyers may be scared away.

“If we have an interested party who wants to negotiate, what am I going to tell them? If I have an eminent domain threat on my property, would you be interested?” she said.

Albert doubts a park is in the works, at least not one using all nine acres

“Are they going to say, ‘We don’t need nine acres? We need one.’ And then spin it off to somebody else?” Albert wondered.

McDermott did say after a council meeting on Feb. 22 that the plan for 23 homes didn’t proceed “because the developer was unwilling to put a park in that we had required.

“They were unwilling pay for the street and the curbs. The proposal did not move forward. They pulled the proposal,” he said.

The proposed low-income senior living development was discussed, McDermott said, but not never brought before the city’s zoning committee.

“We had a conversation with the individual wishing to develop that, not the Dostals,” he said. “We will entertain any proposal that they bring forward.”

After the Feb. 22 council meeting, Ald. Scott Musillami, who represents the 3rd Ward where the land is located, said: “We’re not here to stop any sale, but they have to bring it to zoning before they come to us. You have to get approval to move the project forward.”

Meanwhile, the Dostals continue to hope they eventually are able to sell.

“I’ve been thinking about this a lot,” Rosemary said. “Now is the time to be heard.”

Albert said he feels “kind of left in the dark” adding “what’s the next step?”

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