By Timothy Chipp
Progress continues regarding plans to bring an Amazon shipping and warehouse facility to the Town of Niagara.
The latest step in a long process came Wednesday when representatives for Amazon came before the Town of Niagara board to discuss plans for the proposed site at 8995 Lockport Road.
Discussion during the Town Board’s work session Wednesday featured a popular presentation by company representatives both from Amazon and affiliate partners like Phillips Lytle LLP and JB2 Partners LLC.
It laid out the preliminary site plan, detailing what footprint the proposed 650,000-square-foot facility might have.
Town Board members who spoke were both complimentary of the project and the benefits such a facility could have for the economy, but also hesitant due to some traffic concerns, especially regarding the truck traffic both coming to and leaving the facility should it come to pass.
Current plans show truck traffic entering the facility through a gated driveway near the intersection of Packard and Lockport roads, near Broda Machine Co.
Employees, meanwhile, would enter the facility from Lockport Road. Three entrances, according to the plan, would lead to the five-story facility that will rise more than 100 feet at its tallest point.
These entrances, representatives said, would feature a widened Lockport Road and traffic signals, required to help usher in a large number of employees coming from each direction.
How many? Amazon said the facility would employ about 1,000 people. And they’d combine to staff the facility in two different shifts.
It will result in significantly increased traffic flow, if approved, company officials acknowledged.
Councilman Richard A. Sirianni spoke the longest and asked the most questions during the work session Wednesday, both praising the benefits he sees as possibilities with the project, and questioning the traffic impacts.
Sirianni said there weren’t enough financial positives for town residents who wouldn’t be positively impacted by the facility’s creation discussed leading up to Wednesday’s session.
Amazon’s Facility in a Nutshell
What the Town of Niagara is considering in the latest step to bring the Amazon distribution center to the town, is the site plan proposal and any necessary variances needed to make the project possible.
Currently, Amazon’s project would see the facility built on a 216-acre parcel of land currently being used in farming.
Michael Finan, associate principal for engineering firm Langan, told councilmen the acreage includes a flood plain across much of the southwestern portion of the property, which would likely remain untouched. Current plans show a gas line running through the area, but Finan said an effort is being made to relocate that to avoid a costly permit.
Though the property in question is not exactly a square, it is roughly bordered by Lockport Road to the north, Tuscarora Road to the east, Halsey Road to the west and the air reserve station to the south.
Amazon’s facility would be built closer to Lockport Road.
If built, the facility would have 55 loading docks, 414 trailer parking stalls, 469 total trailer locations and 1,755 car parking stalls – including 16 motorcycle parking spaces – for vehicles.
Other features will be a water tank, stormwater management basins and improvements, accessory site driveways, lighting, landscaping and signage, according to details provided by Langan in a State Environmental Quality Review assessment.
Finan said stormwater runoff typically flows from north to south on the property now. The project wouldn’t change this natural flow, he added.
Inside the facility, there will be five floors, officials said. Much of the space will be devoted to storing products shipped into the facility, including sorting equipment. It would serve as a first-mile fulfillment center, according to Maura Kennedy, economic development manager for Amazon.
So, Kennedy said, there won’t be any blue, Amazon-branded trucks leaving the facility for delivery. Instead, products would be received, sorted and stored. After purchase, a product may be then shipped to a fulfillment center, where it would then be boxed and loaded onto the now-familiar delivery vehicles.
An Alternative Idea
Sirianni prefaced his question to Amazon officials with a statement about not being afraid to ask questions, even if the answers seem obvious.
He then questioned whether it could be possible to get an exit and entrance built on Lockport Road from Interstate 190 to help alleviate what is expected to be heavy truck traffic on Packard Road.
Those trucks, Amazon officials said, would be coming from the highway and going toward the same highway upon departing the facility.
At certain times of the day, it could be a nightmare, he feared.
The answer he received: It’s not part of the plan right now, and would require a number of additional approvals from extra entities, including the New York State Thruway Authority, which owns the interstate.
But, the Amazon officials said, it’s something that could be considered as a long-term option if traffic is adversely affected once the facility is up and running.
That would take roughly 18 to 24 months from its approval.
Town officials are set to meet at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Niagara Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road.