Joliet's take over of Northpoint Project may be inevitable
Joliet Councilman Larry Hug insists that the prospect of the city taking the lead in the development of the Northpoint Project has never come up in any formal gatherings, but he fully expects that it might be one day soon.
“I think that it’s inevitable given that this is an industrial area,” Hug told the Will County Gazette following the April 17 City Council meeting. “It’s something I think every community has to at least be considering.”
As for right now, Hug insists that he doesn’t know of any lawmaker in Joliet who has been approached about the subject of Northpoint.
“There’s nothing on anyone’s plate right now when it comes to anything along those lines,” he added.
Rumblings about Joliet possibly being in the mix have only grown louder with the recent cancellation of an April 23 scheduled meeting by Village of Elwood officials in which authorities were expected to discuss the project, which was first presented to them in 2016 during a public hearing.
Elwood Village President Doug Jenco put the need for such a gathering to a definitive end in a press release.
“I have discussed this matter individually with many of the Village Trustees,” he said in the release. “My discussions have led me to conclude that there is not sufficient support for approval of the annexation agreement, therefore, I have canceled the public hearing.”
The project was seeking to annex nearly 700 of just over 800 acres in Elwood for the construction of Compass Business Park, a massive warehouse development near Route 53 in nearby Jackson Township.
Hug, who was first elected to the Joliet City Council in 2011 and currently serves on the Finance Committee and the Communications, Technology and Information Systems Committee, said he hasn’t spent much time thinking about what may have fueled Elwood’s complete change of heart.
“I try not to tell other governments how to run their operations,” he said.
Meanwhile, Elwood’s history of development has been littered with controversy.
Village officials previously filed suit against CenterPoint Properties, alleging that the Oak Brook-based developer illegally destroyed documents that would show that the company overbilled the village in its spending of tax increment financing subsidies.
The dispute goes all the way back to a tax increment financing agreement reached in 2000 after the village annexed a portion of the former Joliet Arsenal and designated it as a tax increment financing district, according to the Herald-News.
More recently, CenterPoint opened the Deer Run Industrial Park in Elwood, heavily relying on nearly $90 million from the creation of a tax increment financing subsidy.
Village officials now contend that much of that money is unaccounted for, and they say they have no idea how it was used because critical records and documents have not been properly preserved and safeguarded.
Elwood is home to 2,279 people, but the cash-strapped village has at least $168 million in debt, or roughly $170,000 per household.
In contrast to most of Illinois’ other financially hamstrung communities, most of Elwood’s debt stems from revenue bonds and not pension plans.
As for the Northpoint project in particular, Jenco told radio station WJOL on April 17 that Elwood residents simply did not want to deal with the “onslaught of truck traffic” from the project, which many of them reportedly feared would change their way of life.
“The people didn't want it," he said. "I did not want it."