Why Oppose Compass Business Park?
If you live or travel through Will County, you can’t help but notice the overwhelming and unsafe congestion on I-80 and I-55 along with dilapidated roads and bridges. This is the major issue that this project would be detrimental to our area. Our state does not have adequate funding to replace and repair our outdated infrastructure — let alone prepare it for more use — even with the capital funds allocated for Will County. The result of unplanned, irresponsible development is quickly becoming apparent as traveling through our area becomes more and more dangerous. NorthPoint Development’s project is unprecedented in size — stretching 5 miles from east to west and 3 miles north to south, covering nearly 3,000 acres. It would only serve to further harm local communities and the I80-55 Corridor.
The footprint of this project is several miles from interstates I-55 and I-80, which means it will need to use local roads to get there. The TranSystems traffic study cites that NorthPoint Development would create 53,000 trips per day, with 16,000 trucks.
This project would not use the Houbolt Bridge that is in the works within the City of Joliet. Compass Business Park’s truck and employee would undoubtedly spill out onto local roads, like Route 53 which turns into Chicago Street and leads into the City of Joliet. Other local roads like Manhattan Road would also suffer tremendously. None of these roads are capable of sustaining the amount of traffic that this project would bring. We simply do not have the infrastructure to support it.
NorthPoint touts a “Closed Loop” roadway system within the project that they contend will keep trucks and cars off of local roads. However, the closed loop would still have several entrances/exits for emergency access and employees. Employees are not required to exclusively use the closed loop — and as we’ve all seen, trucks will use the shortest route (wouldn’t you?). Below are sections from both the TranSystems traffic study, as well as from the Kimley-Horn traffic study, which was commissioned by NorthPoint Development.
HIGH RISK FOR TAXPAYERS
NorthPoint repeatedly emphasizes that this project is at no risk to taxpayers, but the reality is that the bridge and other required improvements would require “PUBLIC PARTICIPATION FROM TAXING BODIES” per past development agreement language. There is also no water and sewer available where the proposed project would be. Someone has to pay for it — and that someone is you. In all the past projects we have looked up that NorthPoint has completed, we have yet to see one that does not involve tax breaks in some shape or form. They may have different names (TIF, abatement, enterprise zone, foreign trade zone) but they all have one thing in common: major tax breaks for the developer.
It’s no secret that our infrastructure is rapidly deteriorating to unsafe conditions. With a significant number of deficient bridges, overcrowded roadways, and roadways not designed to handle current traffic, adding NorthPoint will only serve to exacerbate the problem. The I-80 Corridor Analysis noted that 20% of the current volume of traffic is comprised of trucks, and the roadway is not sufficient to handle existing traffic.
OVERSATURATION OF WAREHOUSES
There is no doubt with today’s economy that there is a need for trucks and for warehousing. However, this area in particular is oversaturated with warehousing. According to the 2017 Third Quarter Colliers International Research & Forecast Report, the I-55 Corridor vacancy rate is the highest vacancy rate recorded since 2012, and similarly, the I-80 Joliet Corridor vacancy rate is at the highest the submarket’s rate has been since 2014. This report states that the I-80 Joliet corridor vacancy rate is expected to continue rising over the coming quarters as the massive speculation construction projects underway are delivered. Additionally, neighboring Centerpoint has 2,200 acres of available space. See pages 16-18 of the report.
To update — more recent forecast reports don’t put the I-80 Corridor in any better of a position. If anything, the amount of vacant warehouse space has increased.
This project will add pollution, spewing dangerous diesel particulate matter into the air, and it will add more traffic onto our congested roadways, making them even more unsafe and dangerous. According to the last IDOT study, 43% of crashes in Elwood were attributed to semi-trucks. According to the I-80 Corridor study, there were 37 fatalities between 2001-2016 with greater crash rates near Center St. and Rt. 53.
BAD JOBS & BROKEN PROMISES
Another byproduct of the project that NorthPoint proudly asserts is that it will bring jobs to the area. While it is true that there will be construction jobs created to build the bridge and warehouses, once complete, the only jobs created will be warehouse distribution jobs. We spoke with a few recruiters for the area who stated unequivocally that they have a difficult time staffing the warehouse positions that they have. These positions are often low-paying, low-skill and temporary — and slated to be replaced by automation in upcoming years. Is this all that we have to offer our community? There are endless opportunities for monetizing Midewin, The Chicagoland Speedway, and Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, whether it is hotels for visitors, tourist stops, or other commercial possibilities. Additionally, agritourism is a booming industry, and there is certainly an opportunity to capitalize on that.
NorthPoint Development also cannot and will not guarantee that the jobs in the warehouses will be union jobs. Those are the jobs that will persist after construction is complete. NorthPoint also has a history of reneging on union contracts. You can read about some of these instances here:
NorthPoint’s Bad Union Deals:
- July 2018 – Michigan: Picketers outside new GM plant in Burton angry about non-local contractors
- Fines paid due to not abiding by minority worker agreement: NorthPoint eludes big penalty for minority participation in P&L project
- Ironworkers protest NorthPoint Development – Kansas City: Ironworkers union protests at a Kansas City, Kan., job site
- KS City – July 2014: www.kclaborbeacon.com
“But despite NorthPoint’s successes, area labor leaders are concerned about the firm’s non-union history and its quest for PIEA tax abatement, which might enable it to avoid paying prevailing wage.” (page 14)
- KS City – September 2014 (page 8): www.kclaborbeacon.com
- KS City – May 2015: www.kclaborbeacon.com
- NP Fined For Environmental Issue: NorthPoint Clearcuts site without permits
With our aquifers drying up, paving over the land that replenishes the concrete is not only irresponsible, but it’s downright bad for the environment. While warehouses may not use much more water than is required for fire suppression, the reality is that the thousands of acres of concrete will absolutely impact our aquifers — in addition to drain tiles, which will undoubtedly cause flooding. This happened to people living adjacent to the project in Edgerton, KS.
With the project’s proximity to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, there is a significant concern that having a massive industrial warehousing complex would negatively impact the plant life as well as the Bison who call Midewin home. There are a number of endangered birds (loggerhead shrike) and other species that inhabit this area. Diesel pollution is a real concern as the volume of trucks going back and forth from the inland port to the warehouses would create a constant stream of diesel pollution, negatively impacting air quality. The Sierra Club conducted air quality tests in and around CenterPoint to understand the unhealthy quality of air that results from the diesel particulate matter. You can view those results here: Air Quality.