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Montgomery hears La Chiquita rebate request : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Montgomery hears La Chiquita rebate request
Grocer seeking to purchase, remodel Montgomery Marketplace on Douglas Road

by John Etheredge


Montgomery Village Board members said this week they are willing to consider a sales tax rebate agreement with a Chicago-based grocery store chain currently negotiating to purchase the Montgomery Marketplace store at 1525 Douglas Road.

Board members asked village staff Monday evening to obtain further information on a potential rebate agreement with La Chiquita Supermercados.

Village President Matt Brolley said he believes the board requires additional information on an agreement, including data on how much sales tax revenues the current Montgomery Marketplace store generates for the village.

"There is a lot of stuff I think that (village) staff can delve into," Brolley said.

"I think we should look into it," said board member Pete Heinz.

Board members Theresa Sperling, Stan Bond and Doug Marecek agreed. Absent from Monday's meeting were board members Denny Lee and Steve Jungermann.

Village Administrator Jeff Zoephel told the board village staff has already gathered some information on an agreement.

"What we will do is get more information, work with the petitioner (La Chiquita) over the next couple of weeks and try to get a package to you at our meeting on Aug. 11 for you to consider," Zoephel said.

Kerry Lavelle, an attorney for La Chiquita, said his clients are seeking board approval of an agreement whereby the village would rebate 50 percent of all sales taxes generated by the store back to the company for 15 years.

"The landscape has changed dramatically since 2009 and this is a result of the economic downturn and the static nature of retailers who cannot possibly invest this kind of money without an arrangement where some tax dollars can flow back to the retailer," he said.

Lavelle told the board his clients are seeking to purchase the Montgomery Marketplace building and real estate and then spend over $3 million to renovate and modernize the building.

The 37,000 square foot building was constructed in the early 1980s and opened as an Eagle Foods Store in 1984. The Eagle store closed in 2003 after its parent company filed for bankruptcy. Montgomery Marketplace moved into the building in 2004.

"This is an expensive, expensive venture," Lavelle said. "It is impossible to put in a modern-day grocery store in this day and age without some sort of sales tax sharing arrangement between the retailer and the municipality. It is a very, very expensive proposition."

Established in Chicago in 1986, La Chiquita currently operates six grocery stores, including two stores in Aurora, one in Rockford and two in Chicago.

In addition to being a full-service grocery store with a large produce section, deli and bakery, Lavelle said the Montgomery store would include a 100 seat restaurant.

The store would employ between 50 and 60 full-time workers, Lavelle said.

"A lot of grocers will have only one or two full-time employees in each department and then their stores are full of part-time employees. La Chiquita runs their operations a bit differently," he said.

When questioned by Sperling, Alfredo Linares, La Chiquita president, estimated it will take between six to eight months to renovate and open the store.

Bond asked Linares about his plans to renovate the exterior of the building.

"The parking lot needs attention and I just got a quote to re-do the entire surface of the parking lot and it was $196,000," Linares said, "But if we do the parking lot we'll be looking at it for the next 15 or 20 years-we will be maintaining it."

Responding to a question from Heinz, Linares said he would expect to also repair a private drive that serves as an access point to the store's parking lot from Montgomery Road.

"We are looking into it to see if there is anything we can do with it," he said.

Heinz said he believes "it won't do any good to patch" the drive.

"You need to grind down the whole thing and put on a whole new surface," he said.

"I think we are looking at a whole new surface," Linares said.

Linares invited board members to meet with him to tour one of the firm's existing stores.

He noted that his firm has operated a 10,000 square foot store on Ashland Avenue on the near east side of Aurora for the past 22 years.

"It's a small store, but it's a good store," he said.

Linares noted that he continues to maintain his office on the second floor of the chain's first store at 3555 West 26th Street on the near south side of Chicago.

"I grew up in that area and I've spent most of my life living there," Linares said, adding, "From that little store I run all the stores and it's in my heart-I started there and from there I control everything. Six stores."

Brolley noted that La Chiquita's tax rebate request puts the board in an "interesting position."

"There has been a lot of talk about the Douglas Road corridor and that it needs a lot of work. We've had a few businesses close there and we could use this type of development in the community," he said.

However, Brolley noted the board recently voted to place a sales tax referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot to provide revenues for the village's street improvement program.

"We're asking residents if they will increase the sales tax," he said. "For me, personally, that kind of puts us in an odd situation where we are asking residents to vote on this (referendum) while at the same time entering into (sales tax rebate) agreements with a prospective development. I'm not saying it can't be done, I just figured I would mention the obvious and this is something we'll be working on."

License set for taco stand;
liquor license supported

In other business Monday evening:

•The board unanimously approved a resolution in support of creating a stationary food vendor license for Jose Hernandez of Hernandez Tacos of Montgomery.

The license will allow Hernandez to sell tacos from a stand in the parking lot of Aurora Transmission at 699 Montgomery Road.

In a memo to the board, Jerad Chipman, the village's senior planner, noted that Hernandez had filed all the necessary documents and met all of the criteria to qualify for a vendor license.

In a letter to the village Hernandez said he plans to sell steak, pork and shredded beef tacos from the stand.

Heinz told the board he suggested that Hernandez contact the owner of the former Bill's Restaurant across Montgomery Road from Aurora Transmission to see if the owner would allow Hernandez to locate his stand in the former restaurant's currently vacant parking lot.

Heinz added he supports Hernandez's request for the license, but believes the former Bill's Restaurant parking lot would be a better location because it would offer greater visibility than the Aurora Transmission lot.

Chipman said if Hernandez eventually obtains the approval to locate in the former restaurant parking lot he would have the option of asking the board to adopt another resolution changing the stand's location.

•The board unanimously agreed to consider a request to create a liquor license for Taco Madre, a restaurant that opened recently at 2112 Baseline Road in the village.

Police Chief Daniel Meyers said Israel Garcia, restaurant owner, is requesting a Class G liquor license that would allow him to sell alcohol in the restaurant only. In addition, the license would require that at least 50 percent of the restaurant's gross annual revenues must come from food sales.

Garcia told the board he is seeking the liquor license because many of his customers have been requesting alcoholic beverages, including margaritas.

He said the restaurant is open Sundays through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

When questioned by Heinz, Meyers confirmed that Garcia would be permitted to sell hard liquor if granted the Class G license.

Meyers added that Garcia currently operates another restaurant in Mendota and holds liquor licenses from the City of Mendota and the State of Illinois.

Brolley said he support's Garcia request for a liquor license.

"I've been pushing for having restaurants on that side of town. I think its completely appropriate, especially for a restaurant that moved in here four months ago, has amazing food and created a buzz on that side of town," Brolley said.

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