Auto group given expansion incentives

McHENRY – City incentives for Gary Lang Auto Group’s planned expansion were approved Monday night with no opposition from city officials or audience members.

The McHenry City Council unanimously supported a series of ordinances that created a business district for the dealer during its meeting.

The district gives Gary Lang, 1107 S. Route 31, sales tax rebates for up to a 20-year period in exchange for expanding its business, according to city documents.

“I’m glad we were able to work things out,” Lang said. “It gives us a reason to stay in McHenry.”

It is the first time in memory such an agreement has been created for an existing business, city administrator Doug Maxeiner said. He said it was needed because the dealership was one of the top sales tax generators in the city.

“At least two other municipalities were trying to lure Gary Lang with incentives,” he said. “We felt that we need to work with him to keep him here.”

However, McHenry resident Steve Stanek, who was not at the meeting but sent a letter to the council opposing the plan, said he didn’t think that it was a fair deal.

“It shifts the burdens,” he said. “If they’re giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to Gary Lang, they’re going to make that up by taxing other people and business ... to pay for it.”

Under the agreement, which has been in the works for years, the company would be required to commence construction by Aug. 1, 2011.

The auto group then would receive sales tax rebates based on how much sales tax the company paid.

The first $450,000 of annual sales tax would go to the city.

Then, the city would rebate to Gary Lang 100 percent of the annual sales tax between $450,000 and $750,000, and 60 percent of the annual sales tax that exceeded $750,000.

The total rebates would not be allowed to exceed the company’s expansion costs, under the proposed agreement.

Maxeiner said if another business with similar sales tax volume and expansion planned came to the city with such a proposal, it also would be considered.

Lang owns about 20 acres of property at the site and has developed about 6 or 7 acres, he said. He is a full-line GM dealer and plans to expand into other franchises.

The poor economy means it’ll be a while before the actual expansion starts, though, Lang said.

“We won’t be building anything for a couple of years,” he said.

Lang added that he was glad to have the city’s support.

“[The city’s] shown a real concern for the future of my business,” he said. “And keeping us in town.”

During the meeting, aldermen also unanimously approved an Economic Development Plan, which includes six goals: creating a vibrant downtown; retaining existing business; enhancing the retail base; encouraging retail development on the south side of the city; marketing McHenry as a great place to live, work, play and visit; and creating opportunities for industrial development and a facility for large-scale meetings and events.

Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin said the plan would be a living document and act as a road map for development.

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