News - Joliet and Will County

NorthPoint vote postponed in Joliet due to coronavirus

People filled the Joliet City Council chambers in February when the Plan Commission voted on the NorthPoint project.

A vote on the controversial NorthPoint project in Joliet is being postponed indefinitely because of concerns regarding coronavirus.

The City Council will hold its regular meeting Tuesday but continue both the public hearing and vote on NorthPoint Development’s application for a pre-annexation agreement, officials said.

“We will have a council meeting,” Joliet City Clerk Christa Desiderio said. “However, the public hearing will be tabled so there will be no vote on NorthPoint.”

The public hearing was likely to fill the council chambers based on the large number of people who showed up against and for the project at past meetings.

Desiderio said the decision was made because of guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control concerning large public gatherings in light of the coronavirus.

The CDC on Sunday called for cancellation of public gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk at a press conference Monday about city measures being taken in response to the coronavirus said it was the new CDC guidelines that led to the decision to postpone the NorthPoint vote.

O'Dekirk noted that the NorthPoint issue also has brought out a number of senior citizens to meetings.

"That was a concern," he said.

The postponement of the vote on NorthPoint's Compass Business Park is one of a number of measures the city is taking to adapt to CDC guidelines while continuing other business at public meetings.

A Monday pre-council meeting has been canceled. The pre-council meetings are held to review agenda items before regular meetings on Tuesdays.

One other public hearing on the Tuesday agenda concerning the annexation of a single house owned by a city employee also will be postponed, interim City Manager Steve Jones said.

Jones said both the NorthPoint public hearing and the second one will be opened to meet legal requirements because they are on the agenda. But they both will be continued to dates still to be determined,

"Whether it's a three-month delay or it's the next meeting, that's something we just have not determined," Jones said.

Seating in council chambers for the public, city council and staff will be rearranged and spread apart to meet social distancing standards, which will lead to less people allowed into the chambers. Jones said the meeting will be telecast on the first floor of City Hall so people can view the meeting there as well.

The council will accommodate public comments at the meeting, he said.

Seating at council chambers for the Monday press conference were arranged for social distancing and spread six feet apart, leaving only about 25 seats in the room with a capacity for 187.

Some of those seats may also need to be used by staff at the Tuesday meeting, city officials said.

Council meetings typically draw much fewer than 50 people but tend to attract more when controversial items are on the agenda.

NorthPoint spokesman Scott Burnham issued a statement on behalf of the company saying, "We fully understand the city's decision to limit the council's proceedings this week. Taking mitigating actions and necessary precautions to better ensure the health and safety of residents ad staff should be a top priority for everyone during this time."

City Council committee meetings, which typically do not draw many people, will go on as scheduled, Jones said. Those included a public service committee meeting on Monday. On Tuesday, the public safety committee and finance committee meet before the council meeting.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News