Council Briefing: Normal Discusses Tax Abatements, Sport Complex, Liquor Code

 Normal Town Council members unanimously approved the first year of tax abatements for automotive startup Rivian. (Image credit: Christian Prenzler)

Normal Town Council members unanimously approved the first year of tax abatements for automotive startup Rivian. (Image credit: Christian Prenzler)

Monday night's Normal Town Council meeting covered three notable issues, including tax abatements for Rivian, the possibility of a multi-sports complex in Normal, and changes to the liquor code.

Tax Abatement for Rivian

The Normal Town Council unanimously approved the first year of tax abatements on Monday for automotive startup Rivian, though some council members said they want more transparency from the company.

An agreement between the Town and Rivian gives the company a five-year tax incentive, provided it reaches certain performance benchmarks. Council member Chemberly Cummings said she found it difficult to support the agreement, which was made before she joined the council last year.

“I very well trust the decisions of our staff who are very competent...[but] this is one of those things that have kept me up at night because of the unknowns with this company.”

Rivian had to purchase the former Mistubishi plant and invest at least an additional $500,000 in the facility to receive an abatement for its 2017 property taxes. Town staff and the Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council determined Rivian met and exceeded the criteria.

Council member Jeff Fritzen pointed to Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe’s recent moves to bring on a major investor and add to the company’s executive team.

“I’m happy to know that progress is being made...Sure there’s some risk in it but I think from our point of view the risk is fairly minimal,” Fritzen said

Council member R.C. McBride said the company could help change the local narrative and “cut through the noise” with a public update to area investors.

The abatement will cost the Town an estimated $107,200 of tax revenue.

Go Further: Exploring Rivian

Multi-Sport Complex

Council members gave the go-ahead for a feasibility study and economic impact analysis of a multi-sport complex in Bloomington-Normal.

The Town will pay $47,000 to Clearwater, Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisory, LLC (SFA) to look at whether sports tourism in the Twin Cities could support a new development and identify possible sites for a facility. The Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will likely help pay for the study, although the exact contribution is still to be determined.

Council members said the money is worth it considering the much-needed jobs and revenue such a project could create in the community.

The study also comes as a possible solution to the looming closure of a sports complex at Bloomington’s Central Illinois Regional Airport.

Town staff expect a final report from SFA in 12 weeks.

Go Further: Normal Approves Feasibility Study for Multi-Sport Complex

Change to Town Liquor Code

Some Normal businesses can now start serving alcohol earlier on weekends.

Council members voted 6-1 to amend the Town’s liquor code to change the start time for hotels and restaurants from 11 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Staff brought the resolution on behalf of business owners complaining the 11 a.m. start time posed a problem for brunch and early lunch services.

Council member Jeff Fritzen cast the opposing vote, saying the Town has already made enough concessions regarding its liquor code.