Farmers Weekly Review
NorthPoint Opponents Surprised by Joliet’s Quick Annexation Vote, Vow to Continue Fighting
By Nick Reiher
April 19, 2023
If you’ve always dreamed of putting up the picket fence around a home between two massive warehouse developments, you could very well be in luck.
Just before the Joliet City Council on April 18 narrowly approved annexing some 55 acres in Jackson Township, with outgoing Mayor Bob O’Dekirk casting the tie-breaking vote, Township Supervisor Matt Robbins told the council the owner, East Gate Logistics – that is, NorthPoint, already has the property on the market.
And word is, real estate officials are looking at comparables to determine a good starting point for the sale.
In his remarks before the council, Robbins said it was clear this was a strip annexation to allow East Gate/NorthPoint to join its two already annexed parcels totaling more than 2,300 acres, 1,300 acres to the north, and 900 acres to the south.
The developers want to build a business park with 16 warehouses, a plan they have floated since 2017, first to Elwood, where the mayor pulled the issue from the village indefinitely, then to Joliet.
Robbins said it was also clear East Gate/NorthPoint officials believed the little parcel owned by the FAA they used in December 2021 to, they thought, secure the annexation then, was not going to fly. That issue is part of a court filing by the opponents of the development.
Before that vote, he said, Joliet had run the plan through its Plan Commission. This time, the city did not, saying it was unnecessary since the petitioners were asking only for an annexation; not a rezoning … yet.
Avoiding the Plan Commission meant petitioners didn’t have to post notices of the upcoming vote on the annexation around the properties involved for nearby residents to see.
As in tune as the opponents are to the East Gate/NorthPoint developments, the lack of postings resulted in many being surprised the City Council was to vote on the annexation at its April 18 meeting, the last one before a new mayor and some new council members elected April 4 take office.
April 4 also is the date the city clerk officially received the annexation request from Joliet’s Planning Director Jim Torri, even though Torri had received the request, hand-delivered by an attorney representing East Gate/NorthPoint, on Dec. 15, 2022.
The documents show Chris Regis, the city’s assistant corporation counsel also was copied on the petition at that time. Torri has not responded to a voicemail from Farmers Weekly asking for a comment on the delay in submitting the petition to the clerk.
Asked the same question, O’Dekirk responded by text that he didn’t know the cause of the delay, adding, “it’s not unusual.”
Robbins said it was clear East Gate/NorthPoint officials knew the FAA parcel wouldn’t provide the contiguity they needed to secure the 900 acres to the south.
As such, he believes the December 2022 vote should be declared invalid, with the city and NorthPoint starting over, including a hearing before the Plan Commission.
Several opponents who spoke asked the City Council to table the issue until the Plan Commission could hear it, or at least to get more information on the development plans, including Jodie Bertucci of Elwood and Shelley Peterson of Elwood.
Manhattan Village Trustee Ron Adamski read a letter from the village board asking Joliet to delay the vote so officials from both communities could find “common ground” on potential problems with roads and other infrastructure.
He noted Joliet had participated with the county and development officials on a comprehensive freight study that purported to be “family friendly.” He asked the council to delay the vote until the May meeting.
Four Joliet council members –including Pat Mudron and Sherri Reardon, who have supported NorthPoint’s plans — moved to table the issue until their June 6 meeting.
Reardon said she still may support it, but wanted more information first. Mudron, re-elected on April 4, said annexing the land without Plan Commission review may be legal, but “it’s the perception.”
“I don’t think this was done in the right manner,” he said.
Councilman Cesar Guerrero and Councilwoman Bettye Gavin joined them in supporting a delay. Council members Larry Hug, Terry Morris, Jan Quillman and Joe Clement opposed the delay. O’Dekirk cast the deciding vote against the delay.
The vote was the same when it came time to consider the annexation request. Opponents said they would consider their next steps as they continue the fight.
“It’s a shame that the thirst for power by the outgoing mayor and some members of the council continues to overcome common sense and altruistic community leadership. We will continue to fight this project in court, said Jackson Township resident Stephanie Irvine, co-founder of Just Say No to Northpoint.
““This was a bitter act of desperation by a spiteful mayor ousted from office to go against the will of the voters,” said John Kieken of Stop NorthPoint.
“The fight is far from over, and the Stop NorthPoint team will be tirelessly reviewing every detail of these recent events. All options are on the table.”
Map courtesy of John Kieken of Stop NorthPoint