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Love's project slated for Oct. 2 vote

Opposition growing, but mayor says it’s rare investment in East Side

The controversial plan to build a Love’s Travel Stop is slated to go to a final vote Oct. 2 amid what appears to be building opposition.

Residents near the Briggs Street interchange with Interstate 80, who are beginning to team up with others challenging truck-related development, fiercely oppose the project.

Backers of the project include Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who said a new Love’s Travel Stop is a welcome private development in a part of the city that doesn’t see much of it.

“I’m really enthusiastic,” O’Dekirk said Monday. “I don’t know the last time we saw that kind of private investment in an East Side neighborhood.”

Love’s representatives said their project is a $13 million investment that would generate $1.4 million a year in tax revenue. It also is expected to attract 600 trucks and 2,400 cars a day.

O’Dekirk said the Love’s project already is attracting more interest in the interchange from other businesses.

The land where Love’s wants to build is not quite in Joliet yet. But it will be if the City Council approves an annexation plan slated to be presented at an Oct. 1 workshop meeting and go to a vote the next day.

Meanwhile, opposition is said to be growing.

People who successfully opposed the NorthPoint annexation in Elwood and neighborhood groups in Joliet are preparing to join forces with the small neighborhood near the interchange to oppose the Love’s Travel Stop, said Warren Dorris, a former Joliet councilman who would live across the street from the truck stop and is against it.

“We have all kinds of people from Elwood and Joliet and other places that are coming together,” Dorris said.

Dorris, who had his home annexed to the city when he was a councilman, is one of the few Joliet residents and voters who has come out to speak against the project. That lack of representation has weakened the opposition, he said.

“One issue that the city is going to face now is it’s not going to be people who don’t vote for you,” Dorris said. “It’s now more than people who don’t vote for you.”

Dorris was among more than
30 people who spoke against the Love’s Travel Stop at an Aug. 18 plan commission meeting, which about 100 people attended. Several people also spoke in favor of it. Other opponents include Will County Board member Denise Winfrey and East Joliet Fire Protection District Chief Robert Scholtes.

But the plan commission voted, 6-2, in favor of the annexation. A few opponents at the meeting pointed to the fact that they live outside the city limits and questioned whether their concerns would matter to Joliet officials.

“I’ve been here 31 years,” Laura Sperstad said. “I don’t think the city has ever cared about those of us living in the township.”

Joliet in the past year has approved other annexations for warehouses residents living outside the city have opposed. The most notable project was a 138.5-acre development for a speculative warehouse at Route 53 and Breen Road, which was approved in December despite opposition that included Will County Executive Larry Walsh and Jackson Township officials.

One argument for the Briggs Street project is that it will not generate more trucks but serve those already in the area. The Love’s Travel Stop is planned for an area in the southwest segment of the interchange that a company official said would be ideal for truckers because they could get right off the interstate and right back on.

O’Dekirk said opponents to truck-related developments, including those against NorthPoint, often argue that the projects should be closer to interstates. That’s the case with the Love’s proposal, he said.

“It’s right next to the expressway. There’s no reason for them to travel through the neighborhoods,” he said.

Love’s would pay for Illinois Department of Transportation-required interchange improvements.

O’Dekirk noted the company also would pay for the extension of city water and sewer to an area that does not have it now. That, he said, will lead to more business development in the future.

“We’ve already had more calls at City Hall. There’s more business coming behind them,” O’Dekirk said. “The East Side is going to start having amenities like the West Side.”

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