Oak Park has received two offers for village-owned property on Lake Street.

The village put 1113 Lake St., home to Los Cazadores Restaurant, up for sale earlier this month. Two parties bid on the property. Bob Clements, acting director of development services, declined to name them but said the village board hopes to pick one in July.

The restaurant’s owner, Eddy Garcia, confirmed Monday that he made one of the bids. The village bought the property from the Garcia family in 2002 for $350,000. Garcia offered about $170,000, which is the sale price minus costs for repairs to the building and roughly six years in rent.

Garcia alleges that Mike Chen, director of development services until 2005, pressured the family into selling their property. He claims Chen approached them and threatened taking over the property by declaring eminent domain.

Reached at his office last week in Tampa, Fla., Chen denied the accusations. He said any mention of eminent domain in the 2002 sale is “patently incorrect” and “outright illegal.”

“I could never go into properties and encourage people to sell,” Chen said. “It would’ve caused such a stir that I would’ve been run out of town. Without question whatsoever, the first conversation of exploring that [sale] was words that came out of Eddy Garcia’s mouth.”

Chen said Garcia approached the village about the idea, received an “abnormally high” price for the property, and didn’t have to pay Oak Park’s transfer tax.

Village records of the sale in 2002 refute some previous claims made by Garcia. They show that Oak Park did not agree to give the Garcias any right to buy back the property if it hit the open market.

The family originally asked for the right of first refusal, if 1113 went for sale, but Oak Park rejected that idea back in December 2001, records show.

Records also show that the Garcias had an attorney look over the agreement, contrary to the family’s previous claim, and that Eddy Garcia signed the contract at the time of the sale. The agreement also says that the Garcias sold voluntarily without any threat of eminent domain.

The sales agreement does, however, back Garcia’s claim that the family can strip the building of furniture and equipment when the village sells it.

Garcia said if the other bidder wins, he wouldn’t be able to afford the likely increase in rent. The $3,000 they’re paying now is below market, and the family couldn’t afford the price for a new building or the going rate of $5-6,000 per month to rent a comparable space.

“If we don’t come out the winners of the bid, we’ll probably close by the end of the summer,” Garcia said.

CONTACT: mstempniak@wjinc.com

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