A NorthPoint Properties plan for industrial development on 103 acres in Joliet moved ahead Thursday with support from the Plan Commission despite strong opposition from residents.
More than 20 people spoke against the project, some of them contending that NorthPoint plans eventually to link the Joliet land with 670 acres the developer has to the south to eventually build a revised version of the Compass Business Park that was turned down in Elwood last year.
“I feel like this is an attempt to get Compass Business Park built,” Michelle Peterson said at a public hearing that preceded the vote. “To say this is just 103 acres is ludicrous.”
After the meeting, NorthPoint spokesman Scott Burnham would not comment on whether the company has plans to use the Joliet land to build the Compass Business Park.
“We’re focused on this piece of property now,” Burnham said.
Plan commissioners did not question the Joliet plan or comment on it before voting 7-0 to rezone the site located southeast of Breen Road and Rowell Avenue for industrial use.
The crowd that filled the council chambers at City Hall to capacity jeered and heckled the commission after the vote, which is not the final say on the matter. The commission vote serves as a recommendation to the City Council, which will make the final decision.
No date has been set for a council vote. Staff members still are working with NorthPoint on a development agreement for the Joliet site. That agreement likely would be completed before the council votes on both the development plan and rezoning.
NorthPoint’s plan in Elwood reached the same point, getting approval from the village’s plan commission. The Elwood public hearing, however, had to be moved to a school gymnasium and was convened three times on different nights to accommodate the large number of opponents speaking against the plan. The Elwood mayor decided not to schedule another public hearing for the Village Board, which never considered the developer’s request for annexation.
The Joliet hearing Thursday was wrapped up in about an hour and a half. While members of the public filled the council chambers, it did not compare to the turnout in Elwood.
Still, all but two of the speakers were against the plan.
“Nobody wants it,” Danielle Meintanis said. “Approving it would be in bad taste.”
There was support from the building trades unions whose members also backed the Compass Business Park plan in Elwood.
“The construction jobs that our members work at are very important to each and every member,” said Doc Gregory, president of the Will-Grundy Building Trades Council.
Gregory called the NorthPoint plan “a great project for the city of Joliet and the Will-Grundy Building Trades members.”
Opponents jeered Gregory as he concluded his comments and booed loudly when another union-affiliated supporter of the project spoke.
Josh Wegel, policy director for the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting, said Will County was changing into an “economic powerhouse” with national recognition and said more industrial development “is inevitable.”
“Some people may be able to get together to stop a development here and there,” Wegel said. “But another one is coming, and another one after that, and another one after that.”
Many of the opponents, however, questioned whether more industrial development was sustainable.
Christina Sammet pointed to reports of rising vacancy rates among warehouses along the Interstate 80 corridor and predicted that in 10 years the south end of Joliet “is going to be a vacant industrial area.”