Joliet officials lied to the public by citing the city’s financial woes as the reason to move forward with the NorthPoint hearing. The FOIA documents showed that they moved forward to appease NorthPoint Development.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — MAY 6, 2020
MAY 6, JOLIET, IL – An email exchange obtained by the Freedom of Information Act reveals that City of Joliet officials lied about moving forward with the NorthPoint hearing due to the city’s mounting debt from COVID-19 and need to conduct essential business. The email exchange between interim City Manager Steve Jones and NorthPoint Development’s Patrick Robinson shows the pair worked together to get the hearing expedited because of the potential for NorthPoint’s $30 million land deal to go belly up.
In the first email dated March 20, Robinson complained of financial concerns: “In the near term, we face another $30 million of land closings. This is a huge concern for us given the uncertain times that we face. We fully expected to take risks, but we had no idea that we might be facing such a large expense without the benefit of knowing the disposition of a public vote on Compass Business Park.”
Jones forwarded the email to the legal team, “Please accelerate the research legal staff was undertaking pertaining to future meeting protocols,” and then responded to Robinson “Our intent is to continue Council meetings due to the need to conduct critical city business. The urgency of the NorthPoint application is noted.”
A mere 10 days later on March 30, Robinson again bemoans the thought of his land deals failing, “I remain optimistic in these troubled times. At the same time, I have real pressure from land sellers and our investors.”
Joliet officials then affirmed in local media that lost revenues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic required the city to move forward on projects like NorthPoint’s. Opponents believed that holding the meeting was only for NorthPoint’s benefit and that it contradicted both the Open Meetings Act and the Governor’s stay at home order. Opponents warned it would make the city vulnerable to lawsuits, which proved to be true.
The city brazenly and defiantly approved the pre-annexation agreement for the project even though NorthPoint’s promised $5 million dollar cash advance could not be put into the city’s general fund and revenues from the project wouldn’t materialize for decades, further showing that the reason to expedite the hearing was completely to appease the developer.
As of the May 5, 2020 City Council meeting, it appears that the City of Joliet is not simply just holding public hearings to accommodate NorthPoint Development — they appear to no longer be approving warehouses on Route 53 that could compete with NorthPoint’s nearly 3,000-acre warehousing park — even ones that had once been approved previously and just needed new plats approved. Councilman Larry Hug said that the city’s “appetite” had changed.
“It looks like the only appetite the city has is for Patrick Robinson’s wishes. It’s reprehensible. They’ve ignored the people to hold the hearing in the middle of a pandemic, and now NorthPoint is doing their bidding on other developments? This just reeks of impropriety. Something has to change, and the people demand better,” said Stephanie Irvine of Just Say No to NorthPoint.