The signs hoisted in the air by members of the crowd, saying “No to Love’s Truck Stop,” set the scene at Tuesday’s meeting of the Joliet Plan Commission.
Opponents and supporters packed the council chambers to express their views on the truck stop planned for Briggs Street in Joliet.
Members of the Joliet Plan Commission are tasked with reviewing a set of related requests for the zoning classification and annexation of three sites that are contiguous to property owned by Ricky Shuffield.
The developer, Love’s Travel Stops, is seeking to construct a truck stop, along with buildings for a one-story convenience store/café, a tire shop, and Subway and Hardee’s restaurants.
In the proposal, there are 81 truck parking spaces located toward the back of the site for short-term parking only.
The project, if approved, will involve the construction of landscape berms and completion of public improvements.
Several people at the meeting called into question the city and its vetting of the development.
Robert Scholtes, Jr., fire chief for East Joliet Fire Protection District, said he thinks the proposed plans are “questionable and suspicious.”
Nearby truck stops already exist off Laraway Road and Route 52 and Laraway Road and Route 53.
It is anticipated that Love’s Travel Stops will bring in an estimated 600 trucks per day.
Love’s Travel Stops has several locations in Illinois, including Kankakee, Le Roy, and Williamson.
Shuffield said the traffic near the proposed development in Joliet has exhibited congestion similar to what’s seen in other communities.
Commission member Dominic Orlando questioned if the existing roadways in Joliet can handle the added traffic.
A traffic study was conducted for the area in question giving the developers a set of recommendations to consider, if the project advances. The developer intends to complete improvements by the grand opening for the truck stop.
Shuffield said with the recommendations applied, the roadways will suffice and that it could take 9-12 months to complete the project, depending on the weather.
Scholtes acknowledged that he’s seen problems with traffic congestion and said people should “imagine working to get emergency equipment through this.”
He added, “It’s not easy.”
Margie Cepon, a resident of unincorporated Will County, said it is not reasonable to think normal traffic patterns were observed when the study was conducted.
“It wasn’t a regular Thursday,” she said, referencing the traffic impact study. “That was holy Thursday, the day before all of Joliet public schools were going on spring break. I’m a teacher. I know how difficult it is to get students to attend on that day. Spring break starts early. In addition, nearby Union School was already on spring break.”
Warren Dorris, a pastor for Prayer Tower Ministries, spoke of the traffic study and said the recommendations provided do not demonstrate an ability to offer an accurate assessment of the situation.
“If you put those improvements in there right now without Love’s, it would still be a traffic jam,” he said.
Dorris is a former member of the Joliet City Council and is hoping the plan commission and current city council members do not make the same mistakes that he made years ago approving developments that should not have come on line. He said he was not aware of the impact his decisions would have to the community.
“You have to live there to see how bad it is now,” Dorris said.
The total impact to the city in revenue is estimated to amount to $1.38 million.
Love’s Travel Stops is anticipated to bring in approximately 60-70 full-time jobs.
Doc Gregory, president of the Will-Grundy Building Trades, said he is supportive of the proposed development.
“We need jobs. We value our jobs,” he said. “Love’s has been a pretty gracious partner so far, that they’ve committed to using our union contractors and workers to build their project in Joliet.”
Water and sewer are not currently available to truck stop site. The city intends to provide a connection to these services. Love’s Travel Stops may pursue a 50 percent sales tax agreement for a period of 15 years to recoup costs expended to extend lines for water and sewer to the property.
In accordance with the annexation agreement, the developer is allowed to install solar panels or construct a dry-bottom detention pond area to the property located east of the Love Travel Stops site. If not, the site is to be used for residential purposes.
Natasha Nelson, another resident of unincorporated Will County, said she is not against the development, but is hoping they can find a better location.
“If this comes, this is going to be a nightmare,” she said, noting that traffic is already experiencing congestion because some bridges in town are out of use.
A petition, circulated throughout the community, has collected 1,264 signatures as of Wednesday.
In a series of 6-2 votes, members of the Joliet Plan Commission decided to advance the project with a positive recommendation. The Joliet City Council will have the final say on whether the truck stop is approved. Commission members Orlando and Tim Broderick casted the dissenting votes.