Stop NorthPoint leader receives old traffic study after suing Joliet
John Kieken’s lawsuit case will still have Dec. 15 court hearing
By Felix Sarver
December 09, 2021 at 10:46 am CST
A Stop NorthPoint leader said he received an old draft of a traffic impact study from a Joliet city attorney before the first court hearing in his transparency lawsuit against the city.
John Kieken of Manhattan said Assistant Corporation Counsel Chris Regis turned over an April 2020 traffic impact study to his attorneys Thursday.
Kieken filed a lawsuit against the city of Joliet that sought traffic studies concerning NorthPoint before the Dec. 21 City Council vote on the new plan for the development.
Kieken provided a statement from Stop Northpoint that said, “Regis claims that Joliet does not have any other traffic studies other than a 2020 draft traffic study provided to plaintiff’s attorneys that he called ‘obsolete’ and no environmental impact studies.”
Kieken told The Herald-News that Regis sent the traffic impact study before the first court hearing in his lawsuit on Thursday.
Regis confirmed he sent the traffic impact study to Kieken’s attorneys before the hearing. He declined to explain why the document was provided on Thursday and not when Kieken filed a Nov. 15 Freedom of Information Act request.
“I’m not going to get into the details because there is a pending civil suit regarding this,” Regis said.
Regis said the city does not have any other traffic studies. He said an engineer with consulting firm Kimley-Horn said at the Nov. 18 Joliet Plan Commission meeting that they were conducting an updated traffic study.
“That’s all I know,” Regis said.
Kieken’s lawsuit case is scheduled for Dec. 15 in front of Judge John Pavich. Kieken said he still plans to be at the hearing.
Judge Roger Rickmon said at Thursday’s court hearing that it might be inappropriate for him to hear Kieken’s lawsuit case. After NorthPoint’s attorney Kathy Sons confirmed she planned to file a petition for leave to intervene in the case, Rickmon said he would recuse himself.
Sons said that although NorthPoint is not named as a defendant in Kieken’s lawsuit, it does concern their project.
Rickmon previously recused himself in a June 2020 lawsuit case filed by the village of Elwood against Joliet that concerned the city’s approval process for NorthPoint.
On July 23, Sons petitioned for Rickmon’s recusal following a comment he apparently made at a June 30 hearing in response to an Elwood attorney saying some of his clients were present.
Sons said Rickmon’s comment constituted an “overt statement of prejudice” and professes “an agreement that the development at issue should be stopped.”
Attorneys for Openlands unsuccessfully petitioned against Rickmon’s recusal. The attorneys called Rickmon’s comment a “passing joke” and argued he was capable of making rulings favorable to NorthPoint.
“The 12th Circuit should not allow ‘cancel culture’ tactics to affect the judicial system,” the attorneys said.
Prior to Rickmon’s recusal, Judge John Anderson signed an order to recuse himself from Kieken’s case because he has “friends and family members with personal interests in both sides of the controversy.”
Council members are scheduled to vote Dec. 21 on an annexation plan that adds more than 1,000 acres to what the council approved a year ago. NorthPoint now plans to develop more than 2,300 acres for warehouses stretching from Joliet to Elwood.
If city officials are unwilling or unable to provide traffic studies to the public, Kieken’s emergency motion has requested a suspension of the Dec. 21 public hearing until the records are provided to the public.
“Without the traffic studies, it is impossible for residents to meaningfully participate at the hearings,” Kieken’s emergency motion said.