With Michael's Fresh Market closed for good—and not for remodeling like on-site signage indicates—the village revisited its sales tax agreements with Michael's and Lemon Tree Grocer during Tuesday night's Council meeting.
In 2009 the village made a sales tax agreement with Michael’s Fresh Market and Lemon Tree Grocer, but the agreement was conditional that both stores stayed in business. Michael’s is no longer, so the original agreement is null-and-void.
Now, a new agreement is on the table with Lemon Tree: for the next eight years the village will rebate 100 percent of the sales tax paid on groceries and packaged liquor—approximately $14,000 in 2012.
Lemon Tree, as part of the agreement, is required to operate a grocery store for a minimum of 13 years. If they don’t, they’ll be required to pay back the tax rebate on a specific schedule.
Additionally, 51 percent of its sales each quarter must be from grocery sales.
Mayor Martin Tully said this was a “unique situation because of how it fell into our lap.” Tully said the community was “screaming” for a grocery store in the downtown area and the Lemon Tree is a creative solution.
“This isn’t something I would do anything to maintain—it has to make sense,” Tully said, adding that if the council is comfortable with it, and it works within an existing framework, it should be pursued.
Commissioner Marilyn Schnell questioned where the 51 percent quota originated and Village Manager Dave Fieldman said it was based on past liquor practices.
Commissioner William Waldack said the Lemon Tree is a great business, but didn’t think subsidizing the business would be fair to its competitors—[the village] doesn't offer rebates to Jewel or Ultra, he said.
“I’m tending to think this rebate idea is not a good idea,” he said, adding that it's possible he could change his mind.
As for the the space that currently holds Michae'ls, there's no replacement at the moment, according to Michael Cassa, president of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation. Cassa said there have been some initial talks with businesses, but nothing far enough along to be worth mentioning.
Village Communications Director Doug Kozlowski echoed Cassa's sentiments, adding that at one point there was a petition filed to subdivide the property but that the petition had been withdrawn.