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updated: 8/15/2012 4:05 PM

Fox Lake approves economic incentives for Thorntons

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By the narrowest of margins, Fox Lake officials agreed to provide about $150,000 in sales tax incentives to bring a Thorntons gas station to Route 12 and Grand Avenue.

For the first time since being elected mayor in 2009, Ed Bender cast the tiebreaking vote Tuesday night to approve the deal.

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Under the terms of the economic agreement with the developers of Thorntons, the village will receive the first $150,000 in sales tax revenue collected annually. Once that mark is hit, developers and the village will split the remaining sales tax money.

That 50/50 split will last for five years or until the total returned to developers reaches $150,000, officials said.

The money will be used to offset the cost of streetscape improvements developers will make at the high-profile intersection, officials said. They include benches, sidewalks, a large brick wall and other landscaping improvements.

Trustees Donnie Schmit, Nancy Koske and Greg Murrey voted against providing the incentives for the project.

Schmit said Tuesday he was against the sales tax refund because the developers offered to pay the streetscape construction cost when they first appeared before the board regarding the project in February.

"Had I known then that they would come back seeking economic incentives, I never would have voted in favor of it," he said. "This is the 13th gas station in Fox Lake, and the sixth on Route 12. None of the others received economic incentives when they were built, so it's unfair of Thorntons to get incentives now."

Trustees John Mumford, Kevin Burt and Val Griseta voted with Bender to back the proposed incentives. They claimed the sales tax refund is minor compared to the improvements being made at the village's most-visible intersection.

"I agree there are a lot of gas stations in town, but this will brighten up that corner and make it nice," Griseta said. "We are helping Thortons, but they are helping us too."

Bender didn't comment on the issue during the meeting, but said previously the planning and village boards required the developers to make the landscape improvements to spruce up the "blighted" intersection.

Developers have already purchased the two now-vacant buildings at the intersection, and will demolish both. Construction on the parcel is expected to begin as soon as possible and last about 20 weeks, officials said.

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