CenterPoint vs. NorthPoint now in court
Houbolt Road bridge partnership seeks court order to stop Joliet vote on NorthPoint plan
By Bob Okon
May 12, 2022 at 5:03 pm CDT
The private partnership building the Houbolt Road bridge on Thursday laid out a case in court to stop the controversial NorthPoint Development industrial park.
A Will County judge is expected to rule Friday on a motion for an emergency order that would stop a Joliet City Council vote on the project. The council plans to vote Tuesday on plats, which NorthPoint needs approved before it can start construction.
The latest court battle in the project pits NorthPoint against rival developer CenterPoint Properties, a partner in the Houbolt Road Extension Joint Venture (HRE) building the bridge over the Des Plaines River.
One of the three support piers already built for the future Houbolt Road bridge in Joliet is seen on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
“It’s really a monumental project,” John Spesia, an attorney representing HRE, said in a hearing on the emergency motion.
Spesia sad HRE has spent $83 million so far and another $47 million is expected to complete the bridge, “which is under construction as we speak.”
He argued that the NorthPoint project, including the closed-loop road network that the developer and Joliet officials consider a major plus in the plan, poses a threat to the financial future of the Houbolt Road toll bridge and violates a memorandum of agreement (MOU) made before the bridge was built.
“The bridge has to be fiscally sustainable for the long term — not for next year, for the long term,” Spesia said.
The MOU included HRE, the city of Joliet, Will County and the state of Illinois.
The HRE lawsuit is against the city of Joliet. It contends that city agreements with NorthPoint requires new roads to be built and changes truck restrictions in violation of the MOU. The emergency order sought by HRE would block city approvals of the plan until the lawsuit is decided.
The lawsuit contends that the MOU prohibits new roads from being built in an area adjacent to the CenterPoint Intermodal Center. Spesia said that area includes the land where NorthPoint is seeking plat approval.
Deputy City Attorney Chris Regis argued that MOU agreement is not a contract and not binding on the city. He also said the NorthPoint project would drive more trucks to the toll bridge and improve its chances of success.
“Memorandums of understanding are written to set out big-picture goals,” Regis said. “The NorthPoint development is an extension of that memorandum of understanding.”
The case was heard before Will County Judge John Pavich, who in December ruled against an emergency order sought by the Stop NorthPoint group. Stop NorthPoint was trying to block a City Council public hearing and vote on the NorthPoint annexation agreement, which was approved by the council.
NorthPoint plans to develop 2,300 acres from Joliet to Elwood and is expected to later add more acreage closer to Manhattan. It has faced opposition from village officials in both towns as well as residents of the area. The village of Elwood and grassroots groups have filed lawsuits against NorthPoint.
A CenterPoint executive has previously submitted written objections before public hearings on the project, and an attorney for the company spoke out against the proposed plats at a Plan Commission hearing in April.
But the HRE lawsuit filed Tuesday is the first legal action taken by the rival developer against the NorthPoint project.
The project has been stalled by litigation, but NorthPoint officials have said they plan to begin construction this summer in an area west of Route 53 at Millsdale Road if the City Council approves the plat proposals.
The one warehouse built in the Joliet Logistics Park seen from the other side of Route 53 at Millsdale Road on Oct. 22, 2023.
Spesia contended the plat proposals include new roads that have been mandated by the city in violation of the MOU.
“The city of Joliet is violating its own resolutions,” he said. “The city of Joliet passed a resolution and signed the MOU.”
Regis told Pavich that the City Council has authority under state law to vote on plat proposals, and the court does not have authority to stop the Tuesday vote.
Spesia contended that the court does have authority. But if the judge chose not to block the vote, he should stop building permits, design plans and any other steps that would move the project closer to reality until a hearing is held on HRE’s lawsuit, Spesia said.
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