NorthPoint: Development Proceeds Despite Elwood’s Court Win

Court, courtroom, law.

By Nick Reiher

The Village of Elwood celebrated a long-awaited victory when on February 27, officials heard the 3rd District Appellate Court ruled they are not obligated to help NorthPoint Development build a bridge over Illinois 53 at Walter Strawn Drive.

The order reversed a Will County Circuit Court decision, putting a logistical stop to NorthPoint’s “closed loop” traffic plan that would keep truck traffic to a planned warehouse development off Illinois 53.

“This has been a long, hard-fought battle for the rights of our little Village to be protected from the monster-sized Joliet development, but the fight has been worth the effort,” said Village President Doug Jenco in a press release.

Village Administrator Julie Friebele added, “I am so happy for all the residents of Elwood and the surrounding area that these thousands of trucks will not be traveling through our Village.”

Yet just to the north, the beginnings of a bridge ramp can be seen at Breen Road on the west side of Illinois 53, near the Union Pacific Intermodal Yard in Joliet. That was part of a development agreement the company inked with the City of Joliet in 2021.

“People are saying the project is dead, but you see that ramp at Breen,” said Patrick Robinson, NorthPoint’s Vice President of Development. He would not rule out revisiting a bridge at Walter Strawn – near the BNSF Intermodal Yard in Elwood – someday.

“We’ll get to Walter Strawn when we get to it,” he said. “I’m not going to divulge our playbook.”

Robinson acknowledged the suit filed by Houbolt Road Extension Partners over rights to use part of CenterPoint’s property west of 53 for any “closed loop” could affect the project. But he notes they continued to build warehouses on properties in the area on property they own.

In addition to the bridge at Breen Road, the 2021 annexation and development agreement also included 1,000 additional acres (for a total of 3,800 acres) and construction of a railroad bridge on Millsdale Road to connect to the railroad yards in CenterPoint’s properties.

Interim City Attorney Chris Regis drew the ire of NorthPoint opponents when he issued a letter in December allowing temporary truck access to the bridge work on Millsdale until a permanent road is completed.

Opponents believed Regis overstepped his authority by unilaterally allowing trucks on Millsdale in apparent violation of a city-imposed weight restriction on that road.

“The city has the authority to grant temporary access to a restricted roadway, which is what we have done in this case,” Regis said. “It is not uncommon to grant temporary construction access to a road that will otherwise not be used until a permanent connection is built.

“Also, it is very common for government agencies to grant overweight permits for certain roadways; this is no different. Also, trucks routinely violate weight restrictions when making a delivery on a restricted roadway; we cannot landlock a development.

“We took great lengths to insure that (NorthPoint) trucks do not use Route 53; they must be granted another access. We agreed on a temporary one until a permanent one is completed.”

Nick Reiher is editor of Farmers Weekly Review.

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