The Joliet City Council’s Economic Development Committee recommended approval Thursday of a potential $2.5 million sales tax rebate to pay for water and sewer services to the proposed Love’s Travel Stop.
The committee voted, 2-1, for the rebate, which also would make utilities available for development beyond Love’s at the Briggs Street interchange with Interstate 80.
“We would expect that there’s going to be more development out there,” Rich Shuffield, Love’s vice president of real estate development, told the committee. “Probably the reason it hasn’t developed is because there are no utilities out there.”
Shuffield also said that the project could become too expensive if Love’s had to bear the cost of the utility extension.
The cost now is estimated at $2 million.
But the city has agreed to rebate up to $2.5 million if costs are higher than expected, said Derek Conley, an economic development specialist for the city.
Under the arrangement, the city would rebate 40 percent of the fuel sales from the travel center back to Love’s for up to 10 years or $2.5 million, whichever comes first.
The rebate applies to the city’s share of the sales tax on fuel.
City staff revised earlier estimates of how much sales tax would be generated through projected sales of 15 million gallons of fuel a year.
That tax would generate a little more than $1 million in sales taxes a year, according to the revised city projection. Joliet would keep $634,000, and Love’s would get about $423,000 a year to pay for the water and sewer project.
Conley said the rebate would be used up in five years if the cost of the project stays at the current estimate of $2 million.
Love’s is expected to generate an additional $222,500 a year in sales taxes for the city from the sale of food, merchandise and tires. The travel center would include two fast-food restaurants.
Love’s estimates the travel center will draw 600 trucks and 2,400 cars a day.
The project has faced strong opposition, and more than
30 residents spoke against it during a public hearing before the Plan Commission voted, 6-2, to recommend approval of the annexation.
The full City Council is expected to vote on the annexation and rebate Oct. 2.
Two people came to the Economic Development Committee meeting to speak against the rebate.
Steve Matter called the rebate “corporate welfare.”
Margie Cepon asked why the city was giving incentives to a business that already appeared committed to come to Joliet.
“Incentives are given to change behavior,” she said.
Council member Terry Morris voted against the rebate, while committee Chairman Larry Hug and council member Pat Mudron voted in favor of it.