Microbrewery to get reimbursement from McHenry

McHENRY – After a six-year lull, the McHenry City Council gave conditional approval to a redevelopment reimbursement request.

It’s been six years since businesses in the city’s downtown tax increment finance district took advantage of a program where they can apply for reimbursement on projects that have a public benefit and add to the property’s assessed value.

But that’s what the Chain O’Lakes Brewing Company did.

Its owner, Curt Ames, asked the city to reimburse him up to the $17,585 it cost to install a handicapped-accessible ramp at 3425 Pearl St., where he hopes to open a microbrewery.

While exceptions are made for older buildings, a handicapped-accessible entrance is required under the Americans with Disabilities Act despite of all the improvements that had been done by the last owner, Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin said.

This requirement is a primary reason the building has sat vacant since the Green Pearl Restaurant closed in June 2010, Martin said.

The reimbursement would be paid on an annual basis using only revenue generated by any increase in that property’s value, not from the district as a whole, through the remaining 12 years of the TIF district’s life. That means Ames may not make back all of the $17,585 he spent on the ramp.

“Really, it’s a win-win for anybody because you’ll get the money back if it continues to increase in value and we’re not at any risk,” Alderwoman Geri Condon said. “That’s the whole point of the TIF anyway. It’s to make improvements in that area.”

Alderman Andrew Glab was the sole no vote.

He raised concerns about reimbursing projects that had already been completed. Typically, the council looks at a project before it happens and then decides whether to approve a reimbursement, he said.

Because the project is already complete, a provision requiring workers be paid at the prevailing wage was not included.

The city will investigate whether prevailing wages were paid and if they weren’t, did they need to in order to qualify for TIF dollars, the board decided. If prevailing wages were required but not paid, the project will not get the reimbursement.

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