Starting today — that would be April Fool’s Day — Oak Park is going to fine Pete’s Produce $250 each and every day its owners fail to open their doors to the former Dominick’s grocery store on Lake Street. By July 1 those fines will have toted up to $22,500. At that point the fines triple to $750 per day. And that means if Pete’s doesn’t open by Oct. 1, it will have paid a grand total of $90,000 for its long delays.
But these aren’t exactly fines we’re talking about, are they? More like small subtractions from the relatively whopping $1.5 million grant that village government ladled out to the small grocery chain to bring them to Oak Park.
Obviously trading a potential six-month delay for a modest $90,000 nick into $1.5 million in free money is not proving an adequate incentive for Pete’s, even as Oak Park foregoes the sales taxes, the jobs, the increased property taxes that this opening will bring.
Our point is not to object to the village’s original grant to Pete’s. We supported it then, we support it now. We also did not object to the grant made last year to Volvo of Oak Park, a deal that has already had to be renegotiated.
But we do expect the village to sharply up its game in crafting these pacts. The Pete’s fines are nearly a joke. The Volvo deal had red flags attached and the village did not include a payback requirement in the event the dealership was sold.
These are rookie mistakes that must not be repeated.