Most of the forum for District 5 Joliet City Council candidates was done before anyone brought up NorthPoint – the biggest issue in the district over the past four years.
Once raised, the subject of the massive warehouse project added an extra spark to the two-hour discussion among the four candidates Thursday night.
Incumbent Joliet City Council member Terry Morris is seeking a fourth term in District 5, which includes much of the East Side and the expanding south area of the city that has become home to new warehouses, including those now under construction by NorthPoint Development.
The other candidates are Suzanna Ibarra, Jim Lanham and Michael Carruthers.
“District 5 needs some family-friendly development on the southeast side,” Ibarra said in response to a question about the biggest challenge in the district.
She then criticized Morris for his comments about keeping trucks out of neighborhoods, pointing to his vote in favor of the NorthPoint project.
Morris in response said he believes the NorthPoint plan for a closed-loop road network will keep trucks within the industrial parks around the intermodal rail yards and off local roads.
“I like their program of the closed loop,” he said, adding that he believes the system is working at a NorthPoint industrial park in the Kansas City area.
Morris said the intermodal yards are drawing truck traffic.
“That’s how all these containers are coming to the area, and it’s not going away,” he said.
Ibarra later said, “If there are so many containers, we should figure out a way to have container fees.”
The fees would put a city charge on containers coming through the Joliet intermodal, generating revenue that Ibarra said could pay for roads worn away by heavy truck traffic.
Ibarra was not the only candidate critical of warehouse growth in the area.
“I’m against the over-industrialization of District 5 and the east side,” Lanham said. “Every resident I talked to is against it.”
Early in the forum, when asked about opportunities for District 5, Lanham said, “Get new and affordable housing on the east side. Also, stop the industrialization of the east side. No more truck depots.”
Carruthers did not take a stance one way or the other on NorthPoint or warehouse development.
He said, however, that the city could control truck traffic better by issuing more tickets to semitrailers on the roads they use.
Carruthers took a stand on another hot issue in District 5 – a proposal to allow blasting at a VN Land quarry in the vicinity of Richards Street and Sandall Place.
“To me and residents on the east side, it’s a big thing,” Carruthers said. “There are alternatives to blasting.”
The quarry has operated for decades with a ban on blasting in place.
All of the candidates said they opposed blasting at the quarry, although Morris added that he wants to hear what VN Land has to say before making a final decision.
“I personally just want to hear them out,” Morris said. “The question read was what I would do today. I would vote no.”
The forum was the last of three for City Council candidates in Districts 2, 4 and 5 organized by the Cathedral Area Preservation Association. The series concludes with the three mayoral candidates appearing from 6 to 8 p.m. March 28 in the Burnham Room of the Joliet Public Library downtown branch.