City officials last week again showed their willingness to deal to keep or attract car dealerships to Joliet.
The $3.7 million in sales tax rebates proposed for CarMax would become the biggest incentive package Joliet gives a car dealer if it gets final approval.
It tops the $3.5 million in rebates Hawk Auto got a year ago for the Mazda and Subaru dealerships it is building at Route 59 and Caton Farm Road.
CarMax, which plans to build at Route 59 and Theodore Street, also would get a $10,000 cap on city fees for plan reviews and building permits, the same as for Hawk.
Joliet scrapped a standard incentive package previously made available for car dealers when Hawk Auto looked for tax breaks to stay in Joliet. The city at the time was losing Thomas Toyota to Romeoville.
Economic Development Director Steve Jones noted the city has a new policy of negotiating incentives with dealers on a case-by-case basis after the difference between the Hawk and CarMax deals became an issue at a meeting of the City Council Economic Development Committee.
“We didn’t negotiate a limit. That was a deal with that other dealer,” Jones said.
The committee voted, 2-1, to give preliminary approval to the incentive deal with Council member Pat Mudron objecting because of the extra $200,000 in rebates going to CarMax.
Chairman Larry Hug and Council member Terry Morris supported the incentive package, which next goes to the full City Council for approval.
“I can understand the negotiation to do the extra $200,000,” Morris said. “It’s not like we were locked in with the $3.5 million with the other dealer.”
Jones said CarMax faced higher costs on its project because of the nature of the site. It’s not in the city now and needs to be annexed with water and sewer extended to the site.
Also, Jones said, Hawk Auto bypassed the same site because of the land costs, stating that a broker for Hawk had “said the property is way too expensive.”