You want to set up shop in Joliet, to open a business of some sort? Of any sort? Go right ahead. It’s not like the acting city manager is going to give you a hard time about it.
He just doesn’t do that. Or at least that’s what he said when confronted with objections to allowing more warehouses to be built here in town.
“We do not tell laundromats, grocery stores or any other businesses that they cannot locate in Joliet because there are too many in our town,” the acting city manager, Marty Shanahan, proclaimed during a recent city council meeting.
The “any other businesses” part of that assertion seems like it can’t be completely accurate, as taverns, much like laundromats and grocery stores, are often considered businesses. And the city fathers have been known to turn down requests for licenses to sell alcohol, which is generally considered vital to the operation of most taverns.
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In fact, the city council did just that less than four months ago. They denied the application for a liquor license made by El Dorado Banquet Hall. Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, who is also the city’s liquor commissioner, recommended denying a liquor license for El Dorado due to the concerns of residents and the number of businesses within a mile of the place that already held liquor licenses.
That almost sounds like telling a business they cannot locate in Joliet because there are too many like it in town. Not that they would ever do that.
Only two people showed up to speak against the plan for 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space. There were five times that many present to complain at a hearing about El Dorado. So maybe that had something to do with city leaders doing what appears at least similar to what Shanahan says they never do.
Another thing that is a business you cannot locate in Joliet, at least not east of Route 59 unless you’re also selling volumes of fuel generally found at truck stops, is a video gambling parlor. The city council voted last month to approve a one-year moratorium on new video gambling licenses for liquor establishments east of 59. And it is difficult to locate a video gambling business in Joliet without such a license.
One business the city council did green-light might even get gambling machines, as it is going to be a truck stop and can have them whether there’s a moratorium or not.
A Love’s truck stop is supposed to go in at the intersection of Briggs Street and Interstate 80, and the mayor cast the deciding vote to approve the annexation of land for it, as the city council was at five for and three against, and it takes a supermajority for an annexation.
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There were even more people against the truck stop on hand for the Love’s vote than the 10 who showed up for the banquet hall. But that didn’t stop five councilmen from backing it and the mayor from casting the vote required to push it through.
When he was sworn in as mayor, O’Dekirk said he didn't plan to vote unless the council was tied, which it wasn’t for the Love’s annexation and he voted anyway to get it approved. Maybe he and the five on the council voting in favor of the annexation figured most of the opposition came from outside the city anyway.
Or they might have possessed the foresight to realize these truck stops are a necessity. If the council knew it was going to OK more warehouses, it only made sense to clear the way for a gigantic truck stop. They might even need additional truck stops, because more warehouses means more trucks, and all those trucks rolling through town are going to need someplace to stop.
Sooner than later, Joliet will be crawling with truck drivers just looking for somewhere to buy fuel and to gamble, and it’s hard to belief the city council hasn’t already gotten out ahead of this looming truck stop shortage.
The truck stops must be built, and it’s not as if the city council will tell them they can’t. They just don’t do that. Not for laundromats or grocery stores, or any other businesses either.
• Joe Hosey is the editor of The Herald-News. You can reach him at 815-280-4094, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeHosey.