DANVILLE — Aldermen Tuesday night approved a redevelopment agreement for the new T.J. Maxx store, rezoning and annexation for the Meijer store project, rezoning for Watchfire Time-O-Matic's expansion plans and an application for a federal grant that would help fund the continued study of removing two city-owned low-head dams on two rivers.
By unanimous votes, aldermen approved the resolutions regarding T.J. Maxx, Meijer and Watchfire Time-O-Matic, giving a green light, from the city's perspective, to move forward.
Alderman Rickey Williams Jr., Ward 1, asked about protecting the city's investment in regard to the T.J. Maxx redevelopment agreement, which requires the city to pay the developer of the store $60,000 a year for five years, which the city plans to take from sales tax revenue generated by the store. City administration explained that there are protections written into the agreement that require T.J. Maxx to be open by a certain date and require the developer to find a comparable store to take the space if T.J. Maxx did not come or closes before the end of the five years.
Williams said he's heard criticism from residents that the city shouldn't give incentive deals because it's a waste of taxpayer dollars. But, he said, the city's projected sales tax revenue that will be generated by the store far outweighs the city's investment through the redevelopment, or incentive, agreement.
The T.J. Maxx store will be part of a retail site that will include a Kohl's store and is being developed by Milwaukee-based Continental, which has a $2 million redevelopment agreement in addition to the agreement the council approved Tuesday night. The Meijer store will be built just south of the Kohl's and T.J. Maxx site, which is the former K's Merchandise site at 3707 N. Vermilion St.
Watchfire Time-O-Matic, the digital sign and billboard maker, has purchased property around its current location on Maple Street and plans to expand and consolidate its employees — some work at two satellite locations — into the main facility and add more employees in the long term.
The item that generated the most discussion at Tuesday's meeting was the proposal for the city to apply for a federal grant to further study removal of two low-head dams, one on the Vermilion River behind the Public Safety Building and another on the North Fork in Ellsworth Park.
At beginning of the meeting, local business owner and avid fisherman Ann Wells spoke to aldermen, telling them that removing the dam would hurt the smallmouth bass fishing on the Vermilion River and lower the river level to the point that boats, like her bass boat, would not be able to navigate the river.
City administration officials have been pursuing removal of both dams after a woman, who was canoeing with friends, accidentally went over the dam on the Vermilion River in 2003 and drowned. It was the third death at that dam in 12 years, according to Mayor Scott Eisenhauer.
He said that's when the city decided to organize a committee to consider what to do about that dam. The committee eventually recommended removal as the best option, but the city has not had the money to do that and has been looking for funding since then.
Eisenhauer said the funding opportunity through the state has now presented itself. The state has appropriated money for the removal of such dams throughout the state, and the federal grant that the city will apply for will be additional funding that will assist Illinois Department of Natural Resource officials in continuing to study the possible impacts of removing both dams.
Natural Resources officials told aldermen Tuesday night that seeking the federal grant does not commit the city to removal, and once the state and federal officials have finished their research, they will return to the city council for approval to proceed with removing the dams.