The Joliet City Council this week approved a revised tax incentive package for the future Love’s Travel Stop with some discussion as to whether it actually increases the dollar amount.
The original package provided a 40% rebate from city sales taxes on gas to allow Love’s to recover $2.5 million in costs for expansion of water and sewer lines to the truck stop.
City officials said Tuesday that the $2.5 million was an estimate and never intended to be a cap, although an attorney for Love’s had emphasized at a workshop meeting Monday that it was a cap.
“That $2.5 million, from the very beginning, that was an engineer’s estimate,” Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis told the council Tuesday.
Council members asked several questions about the incentive package that was approved in a divided vote Tuesday, showing some confusion over the original incentive deal and what was approved this week.
The incentives always were aimed at allowing Love’s to recover costs, as it pays for the extension of water and sewer lines to the site at the Briggs Street interchange for Interstate 80. City officials have said the extended lines can spur economic development at the interchange.
Whether the recoverable costs were capped at $2.5 million when the Love’s deal was approved in October 2018 was a subject of debate.
But Michael Hansen, who has represented Love’s throughout the project, made a point of telling the council Monday that a cap has been removed from the incentive package.
“So there’s no misconception whatsoever, yes, the $2.5 million cap has been removed. No question. Clear,” Hansen said.
Nevertheless, Council member Larry Hug also described the $2.5 million as an estimate and not a cap, pointing to language in the agreement.
“It was always an estimate and was stated as an estimate,” Hug said.
Regis said Love’s still estimates the cost of the water and sewer lines at $2.5 million, but the agreement is aimed at allowing full recovery of costs if it exceeds the estimate.
He said the major addition approved this week is a recapture agreement, which also provides tap-on fees from future developers that may use the new water and sewer lines, to offset the cost of building it.
The tax rebate is capped at 10 years, and the recapture agreement is capped at 20 years.
The council vote for the package was 5-3, reflecting the same division on the council when the Love’s project was approved amid strong opposition from local residents.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said the project is an economic boost to the East Side and that it will help keep business in Joliet that otherwise is “being leaked out of our city and going to New Lenox or unincorporated Joliet.”
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