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Joliet ZBA votes 5-2 in favor of special use, variation for NorthPoint

City Council to consider development plans Dec. 15

By Rex Robinson | 12/10/2020, 10:27 p.m.
Despite a legal challenge, a public hearing regarding the proposed annexation and rezoning for the NorthPoint development proposed for Joliet ...
A special Joliet Plan Commission meeting went on for hours Thursday night as a number of people called in to voice their opposition to the NorthPoint Development during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

Despite a legal challenge, a public hearing regarding the proposed annexation and rezoning for the NorthPoint development proposed for Joliet went on as planned late last week. Now, comes the next steps.

After the public hearing held Dec. 3 that lasted for nearly six hours, the Joliet Plan Commission voted unanimously to recommend the annexation of property for the NorthPoint Development to the full City Council.

The Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday voted 5-2 in favor of both a variation for parking for tractor trailers as well as special use permit. The vote by the board came after members heard more than two hours of testimony from people opposed to the development. The Joliet City Council on Dec. 15 is set to consider the annexation agreement and rezoning recommendations from the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.

“These are the necessary steps to approve NorthPoint’s annexation and development agreement with Joliet,” interim Joliet City Manager Jim Hock told The Times Weekly. “No development can begin until these necessary steps are complete.”

Joliet City Councilman Larry Hug, chairman of the council’s Economic Development Committee, attended the Dec. 3 hearing along with Mayor Bob O’Dekirk.

“The Plan Commission vetted it professionally and they approved recommendation of the proposed project unanimously,” Hug said. “Frankly, there’s no surprise there, it’s a good project.”

Tom George, Vice President of Acquisitions for NorthPoint Development laid out plans for the massive warehouse and light manufacturing project at the start of the meeting. Numerous people, some from Joliet and others from neighboring communities, called in during the Public Hearing portion of the Special Joliet Plan Commission meeting.

Stop NorthPoint LLC, a group leading the charge against the development, suffered a legal blow a day earlier when a judge denied the group’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order. The group wanted to prevent the Joliet Plan Commission’s public hearing from happening on Thursday.

The hearing went on for more than five hours with many people calling in and voicing opposition to the annexation and rezoning plans necessary for the development to move forward.

Erin Gallagher, volunteer spokeswoman for Stop NorthPoint LLC, continued to fight to stop the Public Hearing and asked commissioners to delay the process until more people could attend in person. That request was denied. Concerned about how trucks would access the development and whether it would cause too much unnecessary traffic on local roadways and near the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Gallagher asked if there was a plan for alternative routes for truck traffic.

“We’ve only discussed one route at this point,” George said.

Gallagher asked many other questions during the hearing and also read a list of taxing bodies outside of Joliet, various elected officials and others who, she said, oppose the NorthPoint Development. “I think that list is very important,” Gallagher said.

Another woman who called in said “residents deserve smart growth.”

“As a taxpayer I urge you to vote ‘no.’ The proposal is simply in the wrong location,” said another woman. “It’s not the right place. It’s not the right time.”

Rebecca Robbins, another resident, said she worries about the impact NorthPoint would have on Joliet’s downtown. “Joliet has a beautiful downtown. We are the City of Champions. Do not become the city of warehouses,” she said.

Will County Circuit Court Judge Theodore Jarz on Dec. 2 denied the request for the Temporary Restraining Order filed by attorneys for Stop NorthPoint LLC.

The Plan Commission’s recommendation to the Joliet City Council is to authorize the annexation and development agreement for 1,360 acres with East Gate Logisitics Park Chicago, LLC for Compass Business Park and the zoning reclassification of 103 acres on the south side of Breen Road, west of Ridge Road and also for 1,257 acres of various parcels generally located south of Breen Road, east of Chicago Road, north of Hoff Road and West of Ridge Road from agriculture to light industrial.

Stop NorthPoint LLC members sought to prevent O’Dekirk and the City from “forcing the NorthPoint project through the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals during the height of a pandemic.”

The group alleged the public hearings would violate state law and endanger the health and safety of the named plaintiffs and public.

“Many of our plaintiffs are veteran heroes, including several who were wounded in combat,” said Stop NorthPoint attorney Bob Fioretti. “These heroes have risked their lives for the right to be heard, and they should not have to hire attorneys to protect those very rights from Mayor O’Dekirk and the City of Joliet who are trying to take away their ability to voice their opinions.”

City officials, however, had expressed little concern for the group’s move to attempt to stop the public hearings from moving forward.

O’Dekirk said a judge denied a similar request back in April regarding another NorthPoint hearing had predicted the same outcome for the Dec. 3 hearing. “Obviously, as I have said from the beginning of the pandemic, city government cannot simply shut down. We have a duty to the people of Joliet to proceed on all matters, including the Northpoint issue.”

NorthPoint Development’s plans for East Gate - Logistics Park Chicago call for Joliet to annex 1,260 acres a half-mile south of Breen Road and east of Chicago Road to develop a business park. NorthPoint continues to acquire the land needed for the development and at this point has purchased more than 50 percent of that property.

In late April, the Joliet City Council took the first step toward bringing the controversial business park proposal to fruition, despite community groups vehemently opposing it. Hundreds of people spoke out against the development at call-in public hearings at the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Following a public hearing that lasted four days and included comments or e-mails from nearly 300 residents - many opposed to the development - the City Council voted 6-3 in favor of the pre-annexation agreement.

The developer and the city had to go back to square one after it was discovered that some of the impacted landowners and taxing bodies were not properly notified of the initial public hearing. This resulted in the Joliet city officials and NorthPoint developers having to essentially go back to square one with everything.