Legal battles waged while NorthPoint moves ground in Joliet

Stop NorthPoint now wants deeper look into environmental impact

Construction crews begin to clear land at the site of the new NorthPoint Compass Business Park along Route 53. Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, in Joliet.

The legal fight against NorthPoint Development goes on even as the developer moves ground this summer for its future Third Coast Intermodal Hub.

NorthPoint began construction in late June in Joliet with four lawsuits pending in Will County Court aimed at stopping or impeding the developer’s plan to build its 2,300-acre logistics park stretching from Joliet to Elwood.

The lawsuits come from residents opposed to the project, environmental groups, rival developer CenterPoint Properties and the village of Elwood.

Stop NorthPoint last week stepped up its litigation against the project, seeking a court order to stop the project from proceeding until Joliet officials consult with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on its impact on the environment.

Opponents have argued for months that the proper studies were not done on the project’s impact on the environment and traffic.

But NorthPoint has been winning consistently in Will County Court, where with one exception judges have rejected injunctions aimed at slowing or stopping the project.

City hearings on the plan had to be done over when a judge ruled that Joliet had not given proper notice. But the city approved the project, again.

Ron Adamski (left) and John Kieken of Stop NorthPoint watch the hearing from a monitor on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, at Joliet City Hall in Joliet

Nevertheless, John Kieken, one of the leaders in the Stop NorthPoint group, said he believes opponents eventually will win in court.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll get this stopped, changed or reduced enough that the citizens of Will County will prevail,” Kieken said Thursday.

Likewise, Stephanie Irvine, a plaintiff in a lawsuit that includes environmental groups OpenLands and the Sierra Club, said she believes the anti-NorthPoint cause will eventually gain traction in court.

Irvine is a leader in Just Say No to NorthPoint that has been raising questions over whether the developer has obtained the necessary permits for the work it started this summer.

Stephanie Irvine speaks out against the development of the Third Point Intermodal Hub at the Joliet Plan Commission meeting. NorthPoint Development seeks approval to begin development of the first 530 acres of its future industrial park. Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Joliet.

“I think it’s pretty arrogant of them to proceed with any dirt-moving or construction of any type without the appropriate permits and the lawsuits pending against them,” Irvine said.

A spokesman for NorthPoint did not respond to a phone call and email seeking comments on work underway and the potential impact of the pending litigation.

But Deputy City Attorney Chris Regis said NorthPoint does have city permits for work now underway, which includes land grading for berms and the future construction of two buildings.

The Department of Natural Resources signed off on the plan that outlines the work now being done, Regis said.

The city has not decided whether it needs to consult with the state on the environmental impact of the entire NorthPoint project, which is what Stop NorthPoint wants.

“We have to meet internally,” Regis said. “We haven’t decided which direction we’re going to go.”

Litigants against NorthPoint include CenterPoint Properties, which developed the CenterPoint Intermodal Center. The massive logistics park also stretches into both Joliet and Elwood. It includes the Union Pacific and BNSF intermodal yards.

CenterPoint has argued in court that the plan for the Third Coast Intermodal Hub approved by Joliet violates a memorandum of understanding that CenterPoint relied on before putting together a private joint venture to build the Houbolt Road bridge now under construction over the Des Plaines River at an expected cost of $130 million.

CenterPoint Intermodal Center complex in Joliet. Monday, Dec. 13, 2021 in Joliet.

CenterPoint is likely to have the resources to put up a long fight. But a Will County judge in May refused to issue an emergency order sought by CenterPoint to block the start of construction. The CenterPoint case continues with a status hearing set for Oct. 19.

Likewise, Elwood continues to fight NorthPoint efforts to build a bridge inside the village at Walter Strawn Road to carry trucks from the Third Coast Intermodal Hub to the CenterPoint intermodal yards.

NorthPoint has proposed an alternative bridge that would be built in Joliet near Millsdale Road, and that’s the area where construction has started.

The Elwood case is due back in court Sept. 22. The StopNorthPoint case has a court date on the same day. A hearing for the OpenLands-Sierra Club case is scheduled for Sept. 29.