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Local News

NorthPoint opponents cry foul on Joliet hearing

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NorthPoint opponents on Wednesday began a phone campaign to the offices of the governor and state attorney general objecting to a public hearing that will keep them out physically.

The Joliet City Council is moving ahead with the public hearing on Monday under special meeting conditions created because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People can still comment but by phone and email only.

The meeting will be closed to the public as was the council meeting on Tuesday when it voted to go ahead with the NorthPoint hearing by a 7-1 vote in which two councilmen participated remotely by phone.

City officials say the special rules were cleared through the attorney general's office and meet exceptions for public meetings put in place by Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home order.

NorthPoint opponents have their doubts.

"I really think this is a huge violation of the Open Meetings Act, and I don't think it's in the spirit of the governor's order," said Stephanie Irvine, a leader in the Just Say No to NorthPoint movement.

Opponents of NorthPoint Development's plan for the Compass Business Park have shown up in large numbers at past public meetings on the project.

The City Council has delayed public hearings on the project twice to avoid attracting a crowd at at time when social distancing standards were being put in place.

But interim City Manager Steve Jones recommended that the council move ahead with the hearing, suggesting further delays could jeopardize the project.

"It gives more certainty if this is going to happen or not happen," Jones told the council.

Irvine said the decision to hold the hearing at a time when the public can be kept away from City Hall "is making everyone wonder what is the ulterior motive."

"For them to push it forward that quickly," she said, "they're not acting in the best interest of the people. Whose interest are they acting on? NorthPoint's."

She said NorthPoint opponents on Wednesday were calling the governor's office, attorney general's office and city council members.

Just Say No to NorthPoint is urging people to phone comments live to the Monday hearing, a process that proved clumsy at times when used for the first time at the Tuesday council meeting.

The phone-in process requires for people to register 24 hours in advance of the meeting, or by 5:30 p.m. Sunday, according to instructions provided on the city website.

Those who need help with the process can call City Hall at 815-724-3800. But Irvine noted they'll have to call by 4:30 p.m. Thursday, because City Hall is closed for Good Friday and through the weekend.

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