By Timothy Chipp
Town of Niagara residents living near the site of a proposed Amazon warehouse spoke up Tuesday as officials continue planning for next month’s site plan review.
A total of 10 stood at the microphone Tuesday evening, calling into question a proposal to construct a 650,000-square-foot, five-story facility on what is currently a farm at 8995 Lockport Road.
Common concerns? Traffic was one. So, too, was dust that would be kicked up both during construction and by the large number of trucks entering and exiting the facility. Then there’s the noise concerns, as the Amazon facility would be bordered by residents who would hear a warehouse operating 24 hours per day and seven days per week.
“I get such a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Janine D’Antuono told the five-man council. “I think it’s insane.”
Amazon representatives were not in attendance, as the meeting’s agenda did not include the proposed warehouse.
D’Antuono calls Lockport Road home. Specifically, she sits at the intersection with Tuscarora Road, which would border the facility to the east. Living at the intersection of the street and Lockport Road would put her in the crosshairs of just about all of the negative effects that come with building the facility, she said.
Traffic is a major concern, she said, as that section of Lockport Road handles a lot of vehicles already. But it’s only two-lanes wide.
“Sometimes I will just sit and sit and sit in my driveway trying to get out,” she said.
Trucks, she said, were mostly limited to U.S. Highway 31 north of Lockport Road. But now the truck traffic is such that the windows of her house rattle and vibrate, she said.
At a work session April 13, Amazon officials said trucks from the facility would not be using that section of Lockport Road, instead traversing Packard Road from the facility’s west side from and to Interstate 190. But employee traffic of commuters coming to the facility could have an impact, as entrances for their vehicles will be on Lockport Road.
Tom Scalzo, another Lockport Road resident, said he recently sat at the intersection of Lockport and Packard roads between 5:55 and 6:10 a.m.
In that 15-minute span, a total of 100 vehicles came his way, he said. He questioned the board about the progress of any traffic studies being conducted. In particular, he focused on Packard Road as the roadway facing the most potential change.
Packard Road, owned by Niagara County, along with Lockport Road, are being studied by SRF Associates, a transportation engineering and planning company, on behalf of Amazon. Amy Drake, senior managing traffic engineer, told the Town Board at the April 13 work session there are 11 intersections under review going all the way to the interstate.
At the time, she said timeframes focus on times between 6 and 8 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m., as those will be considered the heaviest traffic flow times both from employees coming to or leaving the facility. She said the company is studying how traffic will change and grow.
One solution, she said, was widening Lockport Road in front of the proposed facility and adding signal lights, which would allow an easier turn into or out of the facility from three different intersections.
Widening the road wouldn’t address concerns from residents like D’Antuono, as the proposal doesn’t include the area by Tuscarora Road, she said.
Packard Road needs some work, Councilman Marc C. Carpenter said. He should know: He lives in a subdivision off the road. He’s watched the traffic, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, increase.
He said he’s in favor of finding alternatives, including a potential switch for truck traffic onto Lockport Road, a subject first broached by fellow Councilman Richard A. Sirianni on April 13.
Sirianni, meanwhile, said he’s received calls from residents on that section of Lockport Road unhappy with that proposal, as well.
“No matter how this thing turns out, whether it’s a yes or a no, 35% of people in this town are going to beat us up for it,” Sirianni said. “We have to make the best decisions for the town as a whole. We have to figure out what the incentives are for the town and use that information to make the right decisions.”
Town Supervisor Lee Wallace finished the meeting Tuesday with some thoughts of his own.
“I don’t want anyone to think this is a done deal,” Wallace said. “This is far from done. And it was handled the same way any other project that comes before the Town Board has or will be handled. The developer makes an application. And first in line is the Planning Board. The Town Board has not taken any action without the Planning Board first reviewing all of the information and issuing an opinion.”
Such an opinion is likely next month, as the town has pushed back its Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and Town Board meetings by one week with the expectation that a New York State Department of Transportation traffic study will be concluded and filed. Though none of the roads in question are state-owned, the department is weighing in on the project, Wallace said.