By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Just a week after the developer of Project Olive put the Amazon warehouse development “on pause,” the “play” button was hit again.
When the Grand Island Town Board meets Monday (at 6 p.m. for a work session and 8 p.m. for a regular meeting), council members will consider a special meeting “for the purpose of continuing the public hearing on the application of TC Buffalo Development Associates LLC for ... Project Olive.”
According to a public notice from the town clerk’s office, the GITB will consider a special meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 13, regarding TC Buffalo Development Associates Project Olive public hearing. The meeting, a continuation of the public hearing, will be conducted in-person at Town Hall as well as virtually.
Capacity limitations will be in place at the Town Hall in accord with executive order restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“The public hearing will include all aspects of the Project Olive application and all approvals requested, including, but not limited to, the proposed local law changing the zoning designation for the property (Local Law Intro No. 10 of 2020), the incentive zoning application, the proposed development plan, and environmental or other impacts.
“A supplemental application for incentive zoning has been submitted,” according to the meeting announcement.
With incentive zoning, “TC Buffalo proposes a payment to the town of $10 million, to be deposited into a trust fund for specific community benefits authorized by the Town Board. TC Buffalo proposes that a portion of the payment be used for various infrastructure improvements desired by the town relative to the project, such as road and water utility improvements, and that the remainder be used to fund various community benefits, including funding towards the construction of a community center and for improvements to the Grand Island Bike Trail (including connection to the multimodal path currently proposed at the site).”
The announcement in its entirety is printed at the end of this article.
Zoning incentives requested include: minimum lot frontage, minimum lot width, maximum building height, maximum building height (a proposed 87 feet, greater than the maximum of 45 feet according to town code), off-street parking requirements, lighting requirements, watercourses, front and side yard setbacks.
TC Buffalo put the project on pause in the wake of a 3-2 vote by the Planning Board against the recommendation of a planned development district for the project.
The Town Board continued to work on the project despite the developer skipping an appearance at a work session meeting with the board, telling Supervisor John Whitney that the project was “on pause” in spite of speculation in the media that Amazon would seek to develop the project elsewhere in either Niagara or Genesee counties.
“There’s no accommodation within town government that allows for a pause of any kind,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Baney. “You’re completing a project or withdrawing it, so we had no option other than to continue on with the process on which we’ve embarked.
“We’ve just continued to stay the course in evaluating it.”
Councilman Mike Madigan said, “We received a call saying they paused the project. There has been no written verification of the pause and there has been no retraction.”
A week ago, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz addressed the topic of Project Olive at a press conference after speculation surfaced that the pause meant Amazon was looking elsewhere to site the warehouse. Poloncarz described the negotiation with Amazon and said, “We believe that this is one of the strongest deals that any locality would receive with regards to the revenue that’s generated for the siting of the Amazon project in Erie County.
“This is not an inconsequential project. This is a project of regional significance.
“I’m hopeful that when it finally comes up to a vote in the Town of Grand Island that they approve the project. If they do not, I’m not certain what would happen, and the opportunity of losing at least 1,000 jobs, which would have a payroll on an annual basis of at least $31 million at a time when there are thousands and thousands of people who’ve lost jobs with employers who are not returning, is something we cannot afford to lose.”
Poloncarz also made clear what had long been assumed, that the tenant of the e-commerce warehouse is online retailing giant Amazon.
“As part of the negotiations with Amazon, they did not want their name to be made public, but as part of those negotiations, we said it is not fair to the people of our community to have a project of this type and not know who the end tenant is. While Trammell Crow is the developer and maybe the owner initially of the land, I think the public deserves to know it was going to be Amazon in the end, and Amazon agree that as part of their submission with the Erie County Industrial Development Agency for tax incentives their name would be revealed,” Poloncarz said.
“They do not reveal their name until they basically walk into the facility. And we thought that was inappropriate to be offering a discussion on tax incentives and for people to understand that who is going to be the end user was very important.”
The full remarks by Poloncarz on Amazon are printed inside the Island Dispatch.
On July 23, the Grand Island Conservation Advisory Board voted 9-0 to recommend to the Town Board a positive declaration on State Environmental Quality Review Act, which would necessitate an environmental impact study for the project, and to deny the zoning request from M1 (light industrial) to planned development district. The CAB was the second advisory board to the Town Board, the first being the Planning Board, to vote against Project Olive.
Cathy Rayhill, a spokesperson for Coalition for Responsible Economic Development for Grand Island, a grassroots group formed in opposition to the project, responded to the CAB vote by stating, “Alongside the Planning Board’s vote not to approve the project based upon misalignment with the town’s character, the Conservation Advisory Board lays out substantive reasons for the Town Council to conduct a complete, independent, environmental impact study of the site, which has not been undertaken to date. The developer’s claims about minimal environmental impacts are based on a 30-year-old SEQRA study.”
Project Olive is a development of approximately 145.4 acres of land located at 2780 Long Road for use as an Amazon e-commerce storage and distribution facility for consumer products.
NOTICE OF TOWN BOARD SPECIAL MEETING AND TC BUFFALO DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATES, LLC - PROJECT OLIVE PUBLIC HEARING – AUGUST 13, 2020 AT 7:00 PM
PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Town Board of the Town of Grand Island will hold a special meeting on August 13, 2020 at 7:00 PM for the purpose of continuing the public hearing on the application of TC Buffalo Development Associates, LLC for a development of approximately 145.4 acres of land located at 2780 Long Road for use as an e-commerce storage and distribution facility for consumer products, commonly known as Project Olive.
The continuation of the public hearing will be conducted with both an in-person component at the Town Hall, 2255 Baseline Road, Grand Island, NY 14072, and a virtual component. The in-person component will require compliance with all Department of Health guidelines regarding capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements. Masks must be worn by all members of the public at all times during the public hearing. At the Town Hall, persons wishing to speak will be admitted up to allowable capacity limitations. Members of the public may be required to wait outside of the Town Hall until other speakers have concluded and have exited the building. Audio of the public hearing for those waiting outside of the Town Hall will be broadcast on speakers. Additionally, there will be a virtual component of the public hearing via ZOOM with a telephone dial-in number, as permitted by Executive Order 202.1 and Executive Order 202.15, as extended.
The ZOOM public meeting at which the public hearing will be conducted will be accessible either with a computer, smartphone, or tablet with internet connection at the following link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87007537656?pwd=NmpmaEpYTUdSMk9uTFVqeUhBK2FsUT09. The ZOOM meeting ID number is 870 0753 7656; the password is 363925. Alternatively, the meeting may be joined by telephone by dialing 646-558-8656 and by entering the passcode 87007537656 when prompted. The Town Board has been accepting written public comments on the below matters by e-mail at [email protected], by fax at 716-773-9618, and by U.S. mail to the Town Clerk at 2255 Baseline Road, Grand Island, NY 14072. Written public comments shall continue to be accepted until 4:00 PM on August 14, 2020. The Town Board asks residents who wish to speak to please let us know in advance by e-mail to [email protected] or by fax at 716-773-9618, or U.S. mail to the Town Clerk at 2255 Baseline Road, Grand Island, NY 14072. Registration is highly encouraged, but spoken comments will be accepted at the meeting even in the absence of such registration.
The public hearing will include all aspects of the Project Olive application and all approvals requested, including, but not limited to, the proposed local law changing the zoning designation for the property (Local Law Intro No. 10 of 2020), the incentive zoning application, the proposed development plan, and environmental or other impacts.
Pursuant to Town Code §407-20 and §407-120(C)(2), a supplemental application for incentive zoning has been submitted. In accordance with Town Law § 261-b(h) and Code § 407-20(B), TC Buffalo proposes a payment to the Town of $10 million, to be deposited into a trust fund for specific community benefits authorized by the Town Board. TC Buffalo proposes that a portion of the payment be used for various infrastructure improvements desired by the Town relative to the Project, such as road and water utility improvements, and that the remainder be used to fund various community benefits, including funding towards the construction of a community center and for improvements to the Grand Island Bike Trail (including connection to the multimodal path currently proposed at the Site).
Pursuant to Town Code §407-20(C) and §407-120(C)(2), the zoning incentives requested, as provided in more detail in application materials available on the Town and applicant’s websites, include the below.
Minimum Lot Frontage
•Required: 150 feet
•Proposed: 120 feet (existing lot frontage)
•Percent Deviation: 20%
Minimum Lot Width
•Required: 150 feet
•Proposed: 120 feet (existing lot width)
•Percent Deviation: 20%
Maximum Building Height (in stories)
•Required: maximum of 4 stories
•Proposed: 5 stories
•Percent Deviation: 25%
Maximum Building height
•Required: maximum of 45’
•Percent Deviation: 94%
Off-street Parking Requirements
•Required: 4,043 spaces, plus one space per employee
•Proposed: 1,855 spaces
•Percent Deviation: 54%
•Required: Maximum height of 20’
•Proposed: 25’ on building, 40’ on poles
•Percent Deviation: 25%/100%
•Required: Cannot alter the course of a natural watercourse without Town Board approval.
•Proposed: Relocation of feeder creek.
Side Yard Setback
•Required: 50’ minimum setback when adjacent to Residential Zoned Lots
•Proposed: 11’ to sound wall
•Percent Deviation: 78%
Front Yard Setback
•Required: 65 foot minimum front yard setback
•Proposed: 42’ to sound wall
•Percent Deviation: 35%
Copies of the application materials are available on the Town’s website: http://www.grandislandny.us/ and on the website provided by the applicant, www.tcbuffalograndisland.com. In accordance with Executive Order 202.1, the meeting will be recorded and transcribed. The recording will be available on the Town’s YouTube channel. Residents who do not wish to speak at the public hearing, but wish to watch the proceedings, may do so on the Town’s YouTube channel, accessible by link on the Town’s website.
TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF GRAND ISLAND
By: PATRICIA A. FRENTZEL, TOWN CLERK
July 31, 2020
On Monday, Martin Group Marketing sent out these background, fact sheet and supporting quotes documents on behalf of the project partners (PDFs):