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Local News

NorthPoint remains mum on plans when Joliet’s boundary agreement with Elwood expires

Proposal opens speculation that developer could be working on bigger project

Kathy Kirby describes her house as being in “the neighborhood that nobody knows about.”

“And that’s the way we like it,” she said.

Her rural subdivision without any particular name rests in an area along Ridge Road with farm fields and tall trees.

However, Kirby and her neighbors are likely to draw some attention to their neighborhood Oct. 17, when the Joliet Plan Commission is slated to vote on a proposed industrial development near their homes.

NorthPoint Development, the company that attracted hundreds of opponents who appeared at hours of public hearings in a failed attempt to get Elwood approval for a 2,000-acre warehouse development, is the developer behind the project planned at Breen and Ridge roads, just to the north of where Kirby lives.

This new NorthPoint plan is for only three buildings on 103 acres and is nothing like the Compass Business Park that was unsuccessfully proposed for Elwood.

But Kirby and others suspect NorthPoint has bigger plans that could link the Joliet development to land the company has to the south, eventually creating the giant warehouse development proposed previously for Elwood.

“NorthPoint isn’t gone, by any means,” Kirby said. “They slip in one town and out another.”

The land to the south is a 670-acre project that NorthPoint proposed more than a year ago for unincorporated Will County. It had been part of the Compass Business Park turned down by Elwood. NorthPoint then went to Will County for approval, but has let the plan sit idle for more than a year without pursuing a vote.

The 670 acres is only about 1.5 miles from the proposed Joliet project. If NorthPoint could buy farmland between the two sites, it conceivably could link the two, create the large business park in another form and annex it to Joliet.

NorthPoint issued a statement about its latest plans but did not address whether it intends to link that site to the land it has to the south.

“NorthPoint is seeking to construct three buildings on the property,” according to the statement from Patrick Robinson, vice president of development at Kansas City-based NorthPoint. “Much of the surrounding land has been rezoned for industrial use in recent years to accommodate the area’s growing logistics industry and demand for distribution and light industrial space, resulting in economic growth and job creation.”

Robinson said the plans “demonstrate that we’re bullish on the state’s economy and are committed to Illinois.” He said the company has other large projects on the Southeast Side of Chicago and the Illinois side of St. Louis.

Spokesman Scott Burnham, when asked to comment on whether NorthPoint plans to eventually link the two Joliet and county sites, replied with an email, saying only, “Our application in Joliet is for 103 acres. The application with the county is still pending.”

Adding to speculation is Joliet’s recent decision not to extend an existing boundary agreement with Elwood that expires at the end of 2019.

While the agreement is in force, Joliet would not be able to annex the land to the south. Once it expires, NorthPoint could pursue annexation to Joliet if it can acquire the farmland in between the two sites to create one contiguous tract of land.

Joliet interim City Manager Steve Jones said NorthPoint approached him in 2018 after the developer was unable to annex into Elwood to see if Joliet would give its plans consideration.

“We made it clear to them we would only talk about what’s on our side of the boundary agreement,” Jones said.

Asked whether Joliet would consider annexation farther south once the boundary agreement expires, Jones said, “I can’t speculate on what may or may not happen.”

Jones said the decision not to extend the boundary agreement is based on Joliet’s development of a comprehensive plan, a project that has just started and is expected to last about 18 to 24 months.

The comprehensive plan will be designed to map out future development in all parts of the city, including the south end of Joliet that has been an area of repeated controversy.

Residents still living in the once-rural area outside Joliet are resisting the booming logistics industry that started with CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Elwood, expanded with CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet, and has continued with warehouse development on land outside the two large industrial parks.

The controversy is expected to continue with the NorthPoint proposal.

Stephanie Irvine, a leader in the Just Say No to NorthPoint group that organized to oppose the developer’s plans in Elwood, said opponents will come to the Joliet Plan Commission meeting.

In Elwood, the public hearing before the village’s Plan Commission had to be moved to a school gym because so many people came out against the project. But Irvine said the Joliet Plan Commission’s
4 p.m. meeting time could hold down the number of attendees.

“There are a lot of people who are not going to be able to take off work for it,” Irvine said. “But we’re going to try.”

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