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Joliet City Council settles divide over DriveTime location

DriveTime was met with a roadblock last week, after city officials denied a petition from the used car sales company that would’ve cleared the way for it to set up shop on the lot that formerly housed Century Tile.

The Joliet City Council voted 6-2 to approve the denial of a special use permit to DriveTime at the June 7 meeting.

Michael Martin, an attorney on behalf of DriveTime, explained to the council that what the neighborhood groups opposed to the location and what the petitioner have is a disagreement.

“We submitted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau what they didn’t have jurisdiction over us,” he said. “Congress had not passed the act. We submitted to them and they went through all of their business practices, and our problem was we’ve outsourced to different vendors the collection. When they said that was where our problem was, we corrected it.”

In response to a concerned raised about the way in which the applicant handles its financial reporting, Martin said the council can rest assured their client acts in good faith.

“What they overlook is the Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau set up our credit reporting system,” he said. “We report according to the regulations, so we have done what we have been asked to do.”

Martin noted that DriveTime employs a system that helps in improving their patrons’ credit rating, despite what others may think.

“The data shows that more people succeed with our client’s product with the subprime loan than fail and they improve their credit,” he added.

The petitioner for DriveTime was seeking to purchase the rights to the vacant property at 1395 N. Larkin Ave.

In the process of looking at how to acquire a special use, DriveTime faced opposition from neighborhood groups, that split the city council on whether the city should grant the permit.

The two groups contesting the company in its attempt to secure a permit are the St. Pat’s Neighborhood Association and the Cathedral Area Preservation Association. In late April during a Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing, those in opposition to the petition raised concerns citing bad business practices among their concerns.

The City Council tabled the request last month, sending the matter back to the zoning board for added clarification on the basis for their recommendation to deny the petition.

DriveTime was intending to put 80-100 cars on the lot and allocate $750,000 toward improvements to the property.

On average, the typical car sold through a DriveTime dealership prices at $13,300.

“It generates a lot of revenue,” Martin said. “You’re sitting at a site now that’s vacant.”

Martin added that it would take a company bringing in $4.5 million to override the company’s earning potential and ability to create jobs.

In the previous discussions regarding the matter, Councilman Jim McFarland had raised objections to the petitioner’s request. He said he wanted it to be clear why he’s voting ‘no.’

“My concern is the location, so I welcome you to look at other areas in the city of Joliet potentially moving your business,” McFarland said. “I just don’t feel that this is a fit. We get enough complaints already [about the] dealership around the street leaving the lights on with the residential around them.”

McFarland noted the dealership’s approval ratings, which are recognized by the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Affairs. He said he would welcome opportunities for DriveTime to do business elsewhere in the city.

“There were other opportunities there, as you know,” he said. “It came before committee… to put in a Salvation Army resale shop there—a real nice facility in that commercial area.”

Councilman John Gerl noted that it’s great knowing that DriveTime intends to make improvements to the property. Still, he said he questions the way in which the city can rest assured the improvements will be made as proposed in the petition.

“How do we quantify that they put in $750,000 of improvements,” he asked. “Because we know on other deals, they promised certain things and it hasn’t happened. How do we guarantee that?”

City Manager James Hock noted that “part of granting a permit is based on the level of investment” put toward a given property.

“We are trusting to a degree when the contractor comes in what price they’re putting on the project cost,” Hock said. “Our inspectors go out and they generally have good idea at the level of investment.”

He added that the only way to ensure all of the improvements are made to the property would require the city to develop an incentive for the dealership.

To date, Joliet has not offered any economic development incentives to DriveTime.

Councilman Terry Morris and Pat Mudron cast the two dissenting votes in regards to the matter.

Joliet City Council approves amendment to 2015-19 consolidated plan

The Joliet City Council sought an amendment at its June 7 meeting, providing for changes in spending to the annual action plans for Department of Housing and Urban Development funding in 2015.

The city is diverting funds that would have paid for tree planting, public services, emergency home repair and acquisition for the fiscal year 2015, which ends Sept. 30, toward public street improvements. Voting in favor of the matter also allows city officials to submit notice of these changes to HUD.

In May, officials approved an amendment to their annual HUD allotment that prompted them to adjust spending to the 2015-19 consolidated plan.

The city will consider funding for emergency home repair in the 2016 action plan.

Professional agreement for fire department staffing study approved

The city of Joliet is looking to examine the number of firefighters they have in addition to their deployment model to determine whether there are alternative ways to provide protective services to residents.

Since 2008, municipal governments throughout the nation have struggled to provide the necessary level of protective services.

A professional evaluation of the Joliet Fire Department was last conducted by Gage-Babcock and Associates in 1989.

The city will pay for the professional services, valued at $43,950, and amend the Joliet Fire Department budget for 2016 to provide additional funding for the agreement.

Budget amended for police department’s in-car video system

After the city council approved the purchase of 42 new police cars in February, officials moved forward with plans to equip 33 of them with in-car video systems and IT infrastructure.

The current in-car system was put in place in 2011. According to the city, it was determined that a newer, more advanced technology would better serve the Joliet Police Department.

After officials evaluated the vendor proposals, WatchGuard received the city’s approval. Officials reached out to local municipalities in Aurora, Plainfield and Naperville, all of which highly recommended the system.

Voting allowed the city to secure the purchase and payment for the technology, and approve an amendment to the budget to transfer $242,484 from the general fund balance to the 2016 general capital improvement fund.