Mayor Bob O’Dekirk broke a tie to give approval to the controversial NorthPoint Development plan on Tuesday.
The 5-4 vote gives NorthPoint the zoning it needs to start industrial development on 103 acres, a project that opponents contend will grow to become much bigger and add to the region’s truck congestion issues.
The council also approved zoning for recreational marijuana outlets, a vote that paves the way for sales in Joliet when it becomes legal in January.
And higher parking rates downtown were approved for city decks, meters and lots.
But NorthPoint grabbed most of the attention. Residents opposed to the project and union representatives backing it made their case to the council.
Both sides appeared to score points when the council vote went to 4-4 before O’Dekirk broke the tie.
O’Dekirk may have signaled his intentions when he spoke before the vote and commented on a good report on NorthPoint that he got from the mayor of Edgerton, Kansas, where the developer has a 2,300-acre industrial park.
“He said NorthPoint has done everything that they said they would do,” O’Dekirk said. “The quote was they went above and beyond.”
O’Dekirk said NorthPoint was described as “good corporate citizens” making contributions to the Edgerton community.
Also voting for industrial zoning for NorthPoint were Pat Mudron, Sherri Reardon, Jan Quillman and Larry Hug.
Voting no were Michael Turk, Don Dickinson, Bettye Gavin and Terry Morris.
Turk noted that he, too, spoke with the Edgerton mayor and heard the same comments as O’Dekirk.
“But I’m going to vote no,” Turk said.
Little else was said during the vote other than Dickinson’s comment, “I don’t think this is the right project at the right time.”
Lots was said before the vote as people lined up during a public comment section of the meeting, most of them speaking against the project planned for Breen Road near Rowell Avenue.
Officials from Jackson and Manhattan townships also weighed in against the project.
“It’s farm country out there,” Manhattan Township Supervisor James Walsh told the council, noting that roads can’t handle trucks and the site is 2.5 miles away from water and sewer utilities. “All we know is that NorthPoint has always wanted to get in there. If they can get their foot in the door, they can carry on from there.”
NorthPoint has more land farther south, and residents suspect the developer plans to link up the two sites for a larger industrial park in the future.
Several representatives from building trades unions spoke for the project, saying their members need the jobs.
“We’re counting on your resounding yes vote to support these hardworking men and women,” said Mark Pavlis, assistant director for the Laborers’ District Council Labor-Management Cooperation Committee.
Doc Gregory, president of the Will-Grundy Building Trades Council, criticizing remarks made by opponents that construction jobs for the project would be short term.
“Our members deserve better,” Gregory said. “We’re not in it for no more than a two-week paycheck.”
Gregory said building trades workers should not be treated as “second-class citizens,” while one resident used the same term to reflect how he felt they were treated.
“All these people sitting out here – that’s what they’ve become is second-class citizens,” Al Gutierrez said. “You don’t want it in your backyards. Why put it in their backyards?”
The council voted, 5-3, for zoning regulations for sales of recreational marijuana.
A “no” vote could have led to a decision to opt out of marijuana sales in Joliet, which a couple of residents urged the council to do. But there have been few public comments on the issue, and others had urged approval of marijuana sales.
Barry McCue at the Monday council meeting urged the council to use tax revenue from marijuana sales to deal with drug issues.
“Joliet should approve it, and, the city council being good stewards of the city, direct the majority of the tax money to supporting social services that help the residents in dealing with the current issues in the city caused by all the drugs currently available,” McCue said.
The council voted, 7-1, for higher parking rates downtown.
Interim City Manager Steve Jones said the money will be used to turn around a $300,000 deficit in the city’s parking fund and to provide revenue for maintenance and modernization of the parking decks.