Joliet moratorium on Rt. 53 put to the test

Non-NorthPoint warehouse plan back on the city agenda

Moratoriums are made to be broken, and we will see if that happens on Route 53.

Council member Terry Morris was reminded of his no-more-warehouses remark during the 2019 election before he voted for the NorthPoint Development warehouse plan in 2020.

But Morris and others on the City Council pointed to the NorthPoint “closed-loop” concept as a better idea that will help the city reduce the impact of impact of semitrailers on local roads and reduce the numbers of trucks on Route 53.

The concept of a new moratorium was born with that vote in April 2020 – the first of two votes approving the NorthPoint plan after a Will County judge ruled that the proceedings leading up to the first vote did not meet certain legal requirements.

Morris, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and Council member Larry Hug all talked about a new moratorium.

This moratorium would bar warehouse developments that depended on access to Route 53.

The moratorium never was enacted into written policy or law. But it was put into practice when developers of Joliet Logistics Park needed to renew a plat to continue building warehouses on 298 acres at Route 53 and Millsdale Road.

The one warehouse built in the Joliet Logistics Park seen from the other side of Route 53 at Millsdale Road on Oct. 22, 2023.

The City Council in May 2020 said no with a 7-0 vote, suggesting that a moratorium was indeed in place.

“We all know a lot has changed,” Hug said at the time.

The developers of Joliet Logistics Park hope a lot has changed since May 2020.

“Time goes by. Attitudes change,” attorney Nathaniel Washburn, who represents Joliet Logistics Park, said last week when asked by Joliet Plan Commission Chairman John Dillon why they were back again seeking approval for more warehouses.

Joliet Logistics Park is back again, as the developers have every legal right to do, to seek plat renewal to resume development on land that already has a 490,000-square-foot NFI warehouse on it.

Among questions asked by Dillon was why the City Council denied plat renewal last time. No one had an answer, although I, sitting in the back of the room, was thinking, What about the moratorium? Don’t tell me you didn’t get the word about the moratorium?

Maybe not.

The Plan Commission voted, 5-3, to recommend approval for the plat renewal.

Is the unwritten moratorium still in effect?

We should find out Nov. 16. That’s when the Joliet Logistics Park plan goes to the City Council for a final vote.

Chicagoland Speedway

The only other warehouse proposal apparently affected by the Rt. 53 moratorium was that from NASCAR, which was turned down in 2020.

The Plan Commission, which one might think was aware of the moratorium idea at the time, voted 7-0 in August 2020 against warehouses on undeveloped land outside Chicagoland Speedway. The plan also met resistance from the City Council Economic Development Committee.

The warehouse plan dried up.

So has NASCAR racing at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News