It appears the city of Joliet now is flirting with efforts to bring the controversial NorthPoint warehouse development into the city.
The city’s Plan Commission unanimously approved a proposal to rezone 103 acres that NorthPoint owns near Breen and Ridge roads, south of the city. The site is about 1.5 miles north of land it has purchased near Elwood, which it wanted to use to build a 2,000-acre warehouse development.
It’s not that we don’t see the upside of bringing this project into Joliet, or how the city would be within its rights to do so. But this project doesn’t seem worth the headaches it would cause.
NorthPoint representatives first approached the nearest community, the village of Elwood, with their proposal. After a contentious debate, Elwood Mayor Doug Jenco canceled a vote on annexing the property in April 2018.
When Jenco did that, he knew, or should have known, that he was essentially giving up the ability to control what happened with the plan next. Joliet could potentially annex the land necessary to make NorthPoint a part of the city, as the boundary agreement between the municipalities is set to expire at the end of the year.
Approving another huge warehousing complex would have benefits for Joliet – construction would create jobs in the short term, there would be warehouse jobs, and increased property value would provide a boost to a city that provides a lot of services and has the looming cloud of public pension obligations that are burdening many established communities.
It’s not going to be worth the headaches, however.
For one, any approval process will be contentious. The “Just Say No to NorthPoint” activists haven’t changed their minds, and many attended Thursday’s plan commission meeting.
If Joliet’s leaders don’t listen to them – and given that they’re not accountable to many of them at the ballot box, they don’t really have to – they could end up with a court fight on their hands.
Although most residents of Joliet won’t have to look at NorthPoint on a daily basis, drivers from around the area will have to share the roads with increased heavy truck traffic it will bring to Interstate 80, Briggs Street and Route 53.
The area’s infrastructure, although due for upgrades, is stretched to the breaking point. Does the Joliet City Council truly believe adding more trucks each day is a good idea for the area’s transportation network?
NorthPoint is not a rare and unique opportunity that will diversify the economy – it’s simply more of the same industry that already threatens to overwhelm the area. There almost certainly will be other proposals for warehousing developments in the future, and likely, less controversial ones.
We generally favor opportunities for economic growth for the greater Joliet area. But this particular proposal appears it would do more harm than good.