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Local News

Residents lose another battle against Joliet development plans

Rezoning plan for industrial development get preliminary OK

Residents tried again Thursday to no avail to stop another plan for industrial development on the south end of the city.

In a scene played out several times
in the past year, the owner of a large tract of land sought rezoning for property no longer considered viable for residential development while nearby residents said they are steadily being choked out by an ongoing march of warehouse construction and the trucks that come with it.

As before, most of the objecting residents live just outside the city limits in an unincorporated area.

Nineteen people spoke against the plan or raised questions about it, including the mayor of Elwood and a Jackson Township trustee, at a hearing before the Joliet Plan Commission.

“Stand up for the people for one time. Get known as the committee that stands up for the people,” Dave Harris, a Noel Road resident, told the commission.

The commission voted, 7-1, with one member abstaining, for the rezoning of 331 acres of undeveloped land at Millsdale and Bridge roads sought by PNI-Joliet. Now zoned residential, the land would be zoned for industrial development if the City Council adds its approval.

The council is expected to vote
Feb. 19.

Attorney Michael Martin, representing PNI-Joliet, said there no longer is a market for residential development on the south end of Joliet where large numbers of warehouses have been built and others are planned in coming years.

“Since 2006, we have not been able to sell any of these lots to a developer for residential,” Martin said.

He pointed to other rezonings, including the controversial conversion of the nearby Smith farm to industrial zoning a year ago, to bolster the case.

“We need to rezone it to get it marketed,” Martin said.

Just what would go into the 331 acres
hasn’t been decided yet, said Rod
Tonelli, a planner working for the land owner.

The shape of the property and other factors may make it more suitable for a railroad spur and smaller buildings than the large warehouses being built nearby, he said.

Residents who live there now raised issues about flooding, noise, traffic congestion and the loss of property values.

“Has anyone done a study to determine how it would hurt the value of the houses already there?” Dave DiDesiderio asked.

“Our infrastructure cannot support the truck traffic that we have,” Mike McKay said.

McKay pointed to millions of square feet of unoccupied warehouse space already built, noting that the effect of those projects on local roads has not yet been seen.

Also questioning the rezoning were Elwood Mayor Doug Jenco and Jackson Township Trustee Matt Robbins.

Tricia Maas said residents in Jackson Township, the area south of Joliet that includes many of the sites being converted to warehouse zoning and the village of Elwood, already have changed travel patterns to avoid the trucks on Route 53.

“They’re going to Bourbonnais for their shopping,” Maas said. “I would like you to wait the two-plus years before the comprehensive plan is done.”

Joliet has begun a process to do a comprehensive plan that would include the controversial south section of the city. An existing Southside Comprehensive Plan calls for residential development for the 331 acres.

The Southside Comprehensive Plan was dismissed in the rezoning of the nearby Smith farm. Developers and City Council members have said the plan made in 2007 has become obsolete with CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet and other warehouse projects that followed it.

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