May 27, 2024
Local News

Elwood seeks court order to block NorthPoint annexations

Elwood is seeking a court order to stop the first NorthPoint annexation from proceeding as planned on Oct. 6.

That's the date when the Joliet City Council is scheduled to vote on the first annexations for NorthPoint Development's Compass Global Logistics Hub.

On Oct, 1, a Will County Court hearing is scheduled on Elwood's petition for an injunction to stop the annexations from moving forward.

The court battle with the village of Elwood is one more challenge to the NorthPoint project that faces fierce opposition from a number of quarters while also enjoying strong support from building trades unions that see it as a job-producer during the pandemic slowdown.

"This is more evidence that there's so much more coming. There are so many more hurdles," said Erin Gallagher, spokeswoman for the Stop NorthPoint group that plans its own legal challenges to the project.

Joliet interim City Manager Jim Hock, meanwhile, said the City Council will proceed with the Oct. 6 vote unless ordered not to by the court.

The Elwood motion for an injunction has been pending since it was filed June 16.

Joliet and NorthPoint are co-defendants in the case.

The city anticipated legal challenges to the project and wrote into the pre-annexation agreement that was approved April 17 that NorthPoint would pay any legal fees related to the approval.

The Elwood case is aimed primarily at the city process that led to the April 17 vote, including the Plan Commission hearing that provided a recommendation for approval and the public hearing before the City Council held under COVID-19 restrictions. The public was allowed to phone in and email comments to the council, but no one was permitted to attend the meeting and speak in person.

Jordan Kielian, an attorney for Elwood, said the village is seeking "an injunction to prevent Joliet from going forward until they do a proper hearing."

The complaint alleges violations of due process at the public hearing, noting several issues, including a four-minute limit that cut off speakers such as Elwood Village Manager Julie Friebele, who was not allowed to question NorthPoint representatives and city officials.

NorthPoint and the city defended the process in an 18-page motion to dismiss the Elwood complaint that will be heard Oct. 1.

The NorthPoint-Joliet defense, written by attorney Kathy Sons, said there is no requirement that speakers at a public hearing question witnesses and calls the four-minute limit "entirely reasonable and within the bounds of due process, particularly when there are many people who wish to make a presentation."

The public hearing went on for four days in which about 250 people spoke by phone and more sent emails.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News