Niagara is open for business: City Council approves new Amazon facility

NIAGARA, NY (WIVB) – Amazon is about to call the city of Niagara home.

The new state-of-the-art First Mile Mega Distribution Center received unanimous site plan approval from Niagara City Council on Tuesday. This vote means that the lands that make up the project will be brought together and the proposed plans for the structure have been approved. This is the final municipal approval for zoning rights.

The city’s zoning board approved the deviations last week, allowing city council to take final action.

Residents were able to speak before the final vote and many expressed concerns about traffic and safety. The proposal says hundreds of Amazon trucks will be driving down Lockport Road and Packard Road each day, and many locals have said it will be impossible for them to leave their homes.

“You are forcing me to put my house up for sale, take my life back and start all over again. All about you people setting right here. Niagara City resident Robert Taylor said during a public comment. “That’s a shame.”

The city council voted in June to say there would be no significant environmental impact from the project, which was a big step forward. The City of Niagara was the lead agency for the state Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) process, according to City Council special counsel and Barclay attorney Damon, Corey Auerbach. He says the council voted to issue a negative statement of environmental significance. The SEQRA designation is a prerequisite for any other action to be taken on the project.

The city is home to around 8,000 people and covers nine square miles of land, but many residents said it was unsuited to heavy industry. The proposed site for a new Amazon warehouse is 8995 Lockport Rd. It would primarily serve people on the East Coast who buy products from the company. The land on Lockport Road was deemed “ready to start” by New York State in 2012, meaning it was pre-approved for a major industrial project.

“It’s been advertised as such for over a decade,” Niagara County Department of Economic Development Commissioner Michael Casale told News 4. “To tell the site-selection community around the world that yes , we are ready to start, but we are not sure that this project would send a very terrible message.

Some residents are excited about the project and say it will bring economic development to the city and county. They say that creating jobs leads to higher spending and higher taxes.

“I would love to see the Amazon project move forward and bring a positive economy to this town,” said resident Johnny Parks.

The company was already planning to move to western New York, but the initial plan fell apart when residents of Grand Island pushed back to 2020. Before this project went out for public comment, Amazon said agreed to give the city $10 million for public and community projects. . The Niagara Town Board says similar negotiations are underway, but no deal has been finalized.

“Find some good negotiators, because with the railroad, the airport, the Lewiston-Queenston bridge that Grand Island doesn’t have, I think we’re worth $40. [million]added Packard Road resident Tom Webber.

Many residents wondered how the city could approve the project without completing negotiations.

“How can you finalize anything without negotiations that will benefit this city?” shouted a resident in the crowd.

City Supervisor Lee Wallace responded that the tax revenue is sufficient to move forward.

The National Labor Relations Board is investigating the e-commerce giant for various worker rights violations. The city council did not take this into account when making its decision.

“As a city, when we approve a project, we really don’t get internally into who owns that project and what they will do with their employees,” Supervisor Wallace said.

The project is not yet fixed. Amazon halted projects before shovelfuls hit the ground, but the potential for economic growth was too great to pass up.

“You never know what’s going to happen, but we have to move on and hope for the best and hope things work out,” Supervisor Wallace concluded.

There remains a major obstacle to this development project. The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency will have its say on August 10th. There will be another public hearing before the NCIDA on August 3.

Amazon filed with NCIDA last week and asked for millions in tax incentives.

Niagara County officials have confirmed that the e-commerce giant is coming to Niagara County, after months as Project FiFi. The project cleared the county planning board and town planning board in early June.

At a meeting in April, Amazon economic development manager Maura Kennedy, who was on hand Tuesday night for public comment, said the proposal would create jobs both at Amazon and during the construction process. .

“We are really looking to bring economic opportunity to the jurisdiction through this investment. We are looking to create 1,000 full-time positions. All [of them] earn an average of $18 or more per hour,” Kennedy added.

In 2020, Supervisor Wallace sent a letter, saying his town was “fully in agreement and committed to helping bring this great project to Niagara County.”

The facility will be four stories, over 3 million square feet, built on 216 acres of land and will include 55 loading docks, 414 trailer parking spaces, 1,755 parking spaces and two custodial buildings. This will cover 7% of the property, as requested by JB2 Partners, LLC., and 105 acres will remain untouched.

The City of Niagara has posted many of the planning documents on its website. Information about Tuesday’s meeting is available here.

Tara Lynch is from Buffalo and joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, NY, a sister station to News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of his work here.

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