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Wayne's Words: Northpoint vote delayed

Wayne Horne | 3/19/2020, 6 a.m.
The news is almost completely dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are very few positives that can be highlighted regarding ...

The news is almost completely dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are very few positives that can be highlighted regarding the crisis, but perhaps those objecting to development of the Northpoint intermodal project can take some solace from Mondays announcement. The public hearing on the pre-annexation of the 1260-acre project has been postponed until further notice.

Seems the best efforts of many people to delay the vote had unanticipated outside help. This project has been on a fast track for, what appears to be, no visible reason. Why the rush? That’s the question. According to the pre-annexation agreement, several things must be accomplished before any dirt is turned over. A bridge over the Des Plaines River must be built. Even though it has been approved and preliminary plans to proceed with construction have been made, it’s possibly two or more years away from completion. The project’s main concept is that of a closed loop facility with only two places to enter and exit. The promised bridge is one of them.

Another question of “why the rush?” regards the landowner who is also the developer. The developer owns the land so he can’t move it nor can he make any money from it any sooner than it can be a completed project. It’s the chicken and egg tale and the chicken isn’t ready yet. Where else is the developer going to move the project? According to all indications, there is no other competitive location being considered except, possibly, Wilmington.

Perhaps as a show of good faith the developer can construct the truck turn-around for the semis that “get lost” and use the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery as an alternative. That is needed whether the project goes forward or not.

The idea that Will County will be changed forever if the Compass Business Park is built is undeniably true. Will County is no longer the rural agriculture center it was before the interstates were built and the railroads were extended. Over the last 50 years or so, growth, both residential and commercial, has been creeping west and south of Chicago. Unwanted development is an argument that was lost years ago. As a matter of history, infrastructure always follows development not the other way around.

Finally, for this day anyway, there is a new unknown that hasn’t been considered yet. The pandemic being experienced over the coronavirus is going to be very costly. If the current crisis continues for the next several weeks, perhaps months, money for infrastructure projects may be diverted. Neither the State of Illinois nor the Federal government have unlimited resources. We will recover the costs over the long haul, but we don’t know how or when. If jobs are lost sales tax revenue dwindle. For example, the two Joliet casinos are closed until the end of this month. That’s about a $1 million in direct tax revenue to Joliet just for March. That does not count the loss of employee wages to buy things that require sale taxes. The impact of business closures and lost employee wages is a big unknown at this time.