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Manhattan mayor says village should have seat at NorthPoint table

Anti-NorthPoint ire on display; Manhattan mayor advocates ‘seat at the table’

Anti-NorthPoint feelings boiled over at a Manhattan Village Board meeting this week, with people shouting and one being removed from the room as officials discussed the possibility of working with the developer.

NorthPoint Development wants to annex parts of a potential 2,300-acre industrial park to both Manhattan and Joliet.

Both towns are contemplating what to do next about the plans presented to them last week.

On Tuesday, Manhattan elected officials heard from angry residents opposed to NorthPoint’s proposed industrial park.

NorthPoint announced Friday that it wants to annex 1,300 acres to Joliet to revive plans for its Compass Business Park, once planned for Elwood. The developer also reached out to Manhattan officials about a possible annexation of more 700 acres for the project.

Manhattan Mayor James Doyle said Wednesday that he intended to inform residents at the meeting about about the village’s perspective of the NorthPoint plan. Doyle said the village intends to meet with both Joliet officials and NorthPoint representatives to learn more about the plan.

“We have to keep the lines of communication with Joliet and NorthPoint so we can figure out what’s going on,” Doyle said.

Doyle said that he personally preferred the project not come to the area, but believes that Manhattan should be part of the planning. He said he wants to take a “realistic” approach and that it makes sense to “have a seat at the table.”

Still, Doyle said he understands the opposition’s anger and the desire to just say no to NorthPoint’s plan.

“It’s not a very desirable position to be in, but it’s something we have to do,” he said.

The Tuesday meeting became contentious for about a half an hour as people spoke against the NorthPoint plan.

Video shows an exchange between Manhattan Township resident Erin Gallagher and the board where attendees shout at Doyle when he doesn’t answer certain questions about the village’s position on NorthPoint.

Later, when Doyle states his case, people again begin yelling at him, and Doyle repeatedly shouts, “Quiet!”

At one point, police removed a man from the room. Doyle said the man was being disruptive while others were speaking.

Dan DeCaprio, a resident who serves as vice president of the Manhattan School District 114 Board, said he went to the meeting to read aloud the resolution the board passed in 2018 formally stating its opposition to the original 2,200-acre Compass Business Park proposed in Elwood. In the resolution, the board said such a project would “adversely affect” future enrollment numbers and increase traffic near schools.

“The truck traffic that comes through here is close to one of our schools, if not all three of them,” DeCaprio said. “It’s not something that anybody wants here.”

Doyle said he wants to ensure whatever proposal comes from NorthPoint will ultimately benefit the village. He said the developer’s plan cannot be a “detriment” to the residents.

“We won’t accept just any plans,” he said.

Doyle said that NorthPoint has yet to file any official proposal with the village, and added that he wants to meet with the developer to learn more about what it’s planning. He said there is no timeline set for when that process will play out.

In Joliet

Meanwhile, no one from the public came to a Joliet City Council meeting the same night to speak against the NorthPoint plan, despite Joliet becoming the focal point for any future Compass Business Park.

The NorthPoint proposal could go to the Joliet Plan Commission for consideration as early as February, although city officials said Wednesday they still have questions to be resolved before setting a timetable for the annexation request.

Joliet in November approved a rezoning that NorthPoint sought for
103 acres
on the south end of the city that many believed to be the beginning of a revised Compass Business Park plan.

Interim City Manager Steve Jones told the council that officials were not expecting the big plan that NorthPoint presented last week so soon.

“This really came fast,” Jones said. “I certainly wasn’t expecting it. I don’t think our staff was expecting something that would come to us this quick.”

Jones said staff had “many, many questions” about the plan and would meet with Manhattan officials “so it doesn’t appear that the two towns are fighting over the same property.”

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