The long-opposed NorthPoint plan won approval Friday.
The Joliet City Council voted, 6-3, for an agreement that paves the way to NorthPoint Development’s Compass Business Park.
The plan to develop 16 million square feet of mostly warehouse space over nearly 1,300 acres of what now largely is farmland has been the focus of controversy for more than two years.
The City Council met for four days of public hearings this week, hearing about 250 comments – a landslide percentage of which was against the project – made by phone under arrangements created to avoid a public gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, a yes vote, said the NorthPoint plan meets his goal of “growth through economic development” to offset the need for higher taxes.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong or amoral to allow development to provide people with jobs so they can support their families,” O’Dekirk.
The mayor, who typically only votes in a tie, voted on the pre-annexation agreement because a supermajority was required for approval.
Other yes votes came from council members Pat Mudron, Sherri Reardon, Larry Hug, Terry Morris and Jan Quillman.
Voting no were Michael Turk, Bettye Gavin and Don Dickinson.
“I am not against economic development,” Gavin said. “What I would like to see is diversity in economic development.”
Opponents contend the massive expansion of warehouse space will pour more truck traffic onto already congested highways and local roads,
Dickinson said he heard opposition everywhere he went.
“Everyone comes up and says ... ‘You’ve got to say no to NorthPoint,’ ” he said.
NorthPoint promises to reduce truck traffic on local roads with a “closed-loop” business park that will provide internal routes between warehouses and the intermodal yards in Elwood and Joliet.
Mudron said the expansion plans at both the BNSF and Union Pacific intermodal yards make it inevitable that more cargo containers will come into the area along with trucks to haul them.
“The issues are here. They are not coming. They are already present,” Mudron said. “I think we, the city of Joliet, are best equipped to deal with the challenges and the opportunities. The closed-loop system will be the best way to start.”
The approval also will bring an injection of $5 million of upfront cash to the city, up from the original agreement of $2 million.
Quillman called for the additional upfront money, which was to be paid over time as buildings are developed, but was rescheduled with NorthPoint’s consent at the Friday meeting.
“I never thought $2 million upfront was enough,” Quillman said.