The environmental group wants officials to place a moratorium on these new facilities until a comprehensive land use and transportation plan is in place, the petition states.
“A plan must preserve our quality of life and ensure that industry complements rather than overruns our rich agricultural heritage,” the petition states. “We want diverse, sustainable economic growth rather than over-reliance on one sector.”
In a blog post that further explains the group’s position, the Sierra Club recognizes that the Will County Community Friendly Freight Mobility Plan emphasizes protecting quality of life and improving existing roads, but wants more than that.
“The impacts of new warehouses do not stop at municipal boundaries. Traffic from warehouses built in Elwood and Channahon affects roads in Joliet and New Lenox,” the post states. “We need our municipal leaders to work together to protect the quality of life of all citizens.”
Although county officials design land-use guidelines, they do not have the jurisdiction to place a moratorium on all new big development, said Nick Palmer, chief of staff for the Will County Executive’s Office.
“It would have to be all the municipalities agreeing to it,” Palmer said.
However, Palmer said Joliet needs more infrastructure to support the traffic that comes with large warehouses and distribution centers.
“We have lots of problematic roads in Will County, and there’s no funds to support the infrastructure to address that,” Palmer said.
John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development, said that outside the “pinch points” in traffic, the jobs that come with big business are beneficial for the county.
“I think a moratorium of any kind would send a really bad signal, not only to businesses but to the investment community,” Greuling said.
Stopping construction also did not seem feasible to Greuling. He added that businesses must use “tried and tested” practices when they’re drafting their development plans.
Will County Board Speaker Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, agreed that placing a moratorium on new construction could have long-term effects on business interest in the county. He also said that the County Board has not taken a position on the Sierra Club’s request and likely will not.
“We worked hard for the past 30 years to create jobs and opportunity,” Moustis said. “Now you’re asking me to stop it?”
Moustis questioned whether the group had performed a study to review a moratorium’s economic effects. He also referred to the directives the county already has in place in the freight mobility plan to help alleviate traffic congestion.
The Sierra Club’s petition had almost 300 supporters as of Wednesday afternoon, and the group had not returned calls seeking information about why members have decided to act now.