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Amazon delivery hub needed public input, say watchdog groups

What about the tankers?

The Victory Station property is adjacent to Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks across from the old Schellville Station, another concern for Norman Gilroy who opposes “placing such a people-intensive facility right across the street from the highly explosive, five-million-gallon capacity, LPG rail-storage yard at the foot of 8th Street.”

Two Sonoma Valley community watchdog groups are questioning whether a proposal to lease a vast warehouse to Amazon Corp. for a North Bay delivery hub violates the terms of the building's permit.

Norman Gilroy, of Mobilize Sonoma, and Kathy Pons, of the Valley of the Moon Alliance, voiced their concerns in a May 26 letter to Permit Sonoma Director Tennis Wick — questioning whether turning the space into a major regional delivery center goes beyond its intended terms of use and why Amazon's request for a permit that increases the intensity of the building's use was allowed without planning review or public comment.

Th e-commerce behemoth plans to open a distribution center in the vacant 250,000-square-foot Victory Station warehouse, located in Schellville on 19 acres along Eighth Street East. The site will serve as a 'last mile distribution center' or final stop for Amazon packages before they are delivered to customers.

The distribution center is expected to open in the fall, in time for the holiday season.

Gilroy told the Index-Tribune that he and Pons' groups have not yet taken a position on the project, but that they are uncomfortable that the review of Amazon's proposal has 'been behind the scenes at Permit Sonoma,' and without public input. They have asked Wick to intervene, and to allow public comment 'before an irretrievable step is taken that could change Sonoma Valley lifestyles forever.'

Wick told the Index-Tribune in early May that Amazon's plan to lease the building is allowed under the use permit. The property is zoned M3, for light manufacturing, research and development, warehousing and distribution or retail/office use.

But Gilroy feels that Amazon's tenancy is of far greater impact and needs to be subject to a planning review process and public comment. He is asking for specifics on how many employees will work at the site and how many vehicles will enter and leave the facility in a typical day.

Staffing levels and the number of drivers who will fan out from the property onto Sonoma Valley roads have not yet been determined, according to Victory Station owner Jose McNeill.

'This project was approved for low-key use as wine storage facility – a use that is compatible with the neighborhood,' said Gilroy. 'The definition of 'last mile' is work trips back and forth.'

As for next steps, Gilroy said that while Wick has the authority to approve modifications to building conditions, if they involve major changes in impact, a project should go back to the hearing process and go to county's Board of Zoning Appeals for review.

'Tennis has some discretion here, which is why we reached out to him,' said Gilroy. 'He informed us that he has received our letter and is passing it on to Amazon.'

Gilroy said first and foremost, he and Pons want more information.

'We don't know what we are opposing or whether we are opposing anything because there is not information available,' he said.

Based on traffic patterns at similar Amazon 'last mile' sites, it is anticipated that large trucks will drop off packages overnight at the Schellville center, where they are loaded into delivery vans. At midday, delivery vans will leave the facility to deliver products to homes.

Another wave of drivers will drop by in the late afternoon to pick up more packages for delivery. The delivery vans return in the evening, when the process starts again.

The building is located near the intersection of Highways 121 and 12, around eight miles from both Highway 37 and 29. Gilroy believes that traffic in this area can and will have a ripple effect.

'Traffic from this site could affect Broadway, Highway 12 — all the way,' he said. 'This project, one way or another, affects the entire Sonoma Valley.'

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

What about the tankers?

The Victory Station property is adjacent to Northwestern Pacific Railroad tracks across from the old Schellville Station, another concern for Norman Gilroy who opposes “placing such a people-intensive facility right across the street from the highly explosive, five-million-gallon capacity, LPG rail-storage yard at the foot of 8th Street.”

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