Joliet restarts NorthPoint annexation process

Joliet will restart the NorthPoint annexation process.

The city on Friday announced a Dec. 3 special meeting of the Plan Commission to consider the annexation and zoning of 1,360 acres for the Compass Global Logistics Hub planned by NorthPoint Development.

The meeting has been scheduled while an injunction is in place barring the city from moving forward with annexations based on a previous agreement with NorthPoint.

But the injunction does not bar the city from making a new agreement, Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis said.

"The injunction is very specific in what it enjoins," Regis said. "We're enjoined from taking action that fulfills the agreement that was made on April 17. We're not barred from taking action on another agreement."

The court injunction was sought by the village of Elwood, which argued that the city did not follow proper procedures in posting public notice and and holding hearings leading up to the City Council vote on April 17 approving a pre-annexation agreement.

That agreement was to be followed up by actual annexations, which were blocked when the court intervened.

The purpose of the injunction was to get Joliet to restart the process, said Jordan Kielian, attorney for the village of Elwood.

"I don't believe there's any controversy about them starting back from square one," Kielian said. "There's nothing in the injunction that bars them from starting over again."

Regis noted that there would be some changes in the agreement since NorthPoint now owns land that it was previously in the process of acquiring when the pre-annexation agreement was made.

The matter going to the Plan Commission in December and eventually to the City Council now provides for actual annexations.

Restarting the approval process is likely to resurrect the public outcry against the project, which led to four days of public hearings and more than 150 speakers before the City Council approved the pre-annexation agreement on a 6-3 vote.

The proposed logistics park is opposed by residents, most of them from neighboring Elwood and Manhattan. The development would go into Elwood and border Manhattan.

The NorthPoint plan is backed by building trades unions.

A second lawsuit brought by the Stop NorthPoint group seeks to put a stop to the project altogether, arguing that truck traffic generated by the Compass Global Logistics Hub will create a regional nuisance.

Stop NorthPoint spokeswoman Erin Gallagher called the decision to restart the approval process "a glorious win for Elwood and the entire movement."

Gallagher noted, however, that the process is being restarted while COVID-19 cases are spiking, which could lead to the same conditions as the public hearing in April when people had to phone in their comments to the City Council.

"They're going to be doing this all over again in the pandemic," Gallagher said.