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Earlier this year, a crane with an American flag was visible above the property where an Amazon e-commerce warehouse was proposed for development on Long Road. (File photo)
Earlier this year, a crane with an American flag was visible above the property where an Amazon e-commerce warehouse was proposed for development on Long Road. (File photo)

Grand Island: New life for land once considered for Amazon warehouse

Wed, Dec 2nd 2020 03:40 pm

By Michael J. Billoni

The Island Dispatch has learned Michael Huntress, vice president of Acquest Development LLC of Amherst, submitted a site plan to the Town of Grand Island for a proposed 1,080,308-square-foot distribution facility project on Long Road. The structure would sit on land its own, along the New York State Thruway I-190 – an area that was under consideration by Amazon for a proposed 3.8 million-square-foot distribution center.

Kasey Morgan, P.E., a member of the town’s Building Department, is reviewing the application against the zoning code. He researched its size, which is the equivalent of more than 20 football fields, and found, if built, it will be the fifth-largest warehouse facility in the world.

A cover letter signed by Huntress, whose father William owns Acquest, accompanied the site plan created by Langan Engineering. Huntress said Acquest is building this without a confirmed tenant because “there is a need for high quality distribution space throughout the country.”

He outlined the differences in this project versus the one proposed by Amazon – which ultimately walked away from the proposed facility in August. Huntress said this project calls for just over 1 million square feet vs. 4 million square feet for Amazon; his project will only be one story in height vs. the four stories Amazon was seeking; and it would require less parking space. Moreover, the Huntress project would occupy 138 acres vs. 123 acres for Amazon.

The next step in the project proposal process is for the Building Department to submit the full site plan package to the Planning Board for review at a Dec. 14 meeting. The Planning Board can either approve the plan and forward it to the Town Board for subsequent review and vote; it can deny the plan; or it can ask for more information and table the idea until its next meeting.

Ronald Milks, who heads the Building Department, said it appears the plan meets all the town’s zoning codes, so it would not require any variances. Its height is below the 45-foot limit.

He noted another difference between the Huntress submission and the previous one by representatives for a client that turned out to be Amazon, is that Huntress is not selling the property, but will develop it and lease it out.

“He said it could be one client or it could have up to four different clients in there,” Milks said.

Because a tenant is not known, Milks said the number of parking spots required may be a question that cannot be answered right away – the same goes for potential traffic issues.

Town Supervisor John C. Whitney, P.E., in an effort to keep everyone informed on all aspects of future major projects presented to the town, is resurrecting a past practice from years ago of inviting developers to present their plan to all department heads, advisory boards and interested Town Board members in an informal setting “to start the process.” Whitney said it will be an “internal meeting” and not open to the public, but he is having it livestreamed via the town’s YouTube channel at 10 a.m. Thursday to keep residents informed. The public will not be permitted to ask questions during this session. Huntress is expected to attend virtually.

“These meetings, which were dropped in the past, are meant to make the lines of communication better for everyone,” Whitney said.

According to a post on the town’s website today, “Supervisor Whitney has implemented these meetings for large projects submitted to the Town. Informational meetings will allow the developer of proposed projects to present the project to any Town Department Heads and Advisory Boards feel they would benefit from information at the time of application.”

The link to the YouTube channel is provided on the homepage of the town’s website, www.grand-island.ny.us. Click the “meetings live” icon.

In addition to this project, the informational meeting will also provide details on these projects: mixed-use development – Tetra Tech – on Grand Island Boulevard and Baseline Road, behind Speedway/Dunkin Donuts/Pizza Amore; and a solar project on the north side of Whitehaven Road between 2585 and 2605.

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