Locals fight to keep warehouses out of their neighborhoods
Amazon.com in mid-March canceled plans to open a four-story warehouse in Churchill, PA, a suburb of Pittsburgh, after local residents complained about the potential for excessive pollution and traffic.
“I think it’s a classic ‘David slayed Goliath’ story, right here in small Churchill borough,” Jennifer Korona-Huffman, of Churchill Future, the opposition group, told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4. “Our community is safe for now. We don’t have to deal with the negative environmental fallout from a project such as that mega warehouse that was slated to be built here in our residential community.”
Churchill Future filed an appeal following approval of the $300 million project by the Churchill Borough Council in late December after more than 60 hours of hearings. The 2.9 million square-foot distribution center was expected to support an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 jobs and generate $11.7 million in annual tax revenue.
Amazon said in the statement, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that its decision to withdraw was “based on our operational needs” rather than opposition pressures.
A Wall Street Journal article said similar protests have erupted over planned distribution center projects outside Madison, WI, as well as in Southern California and eastern Pennsylvania as many such facilities are opening in residential areas.
While the protests in most cases have failed to derail the projects due to the promised job creation and economic benefits, related litigation and public relations can drive up costs and any resultant new taxes, regulations or moratoriums on further construction to appease opponents can limit the projects’ potential.
The industry is in the midst of a building boom of major and micro-warehouses to support e-commerce’s rapid growth and expectations of speedy delivery. Complaints have cited the increased traffic, the impact of heavy-duty trucks on local roads, air quality issues from idling vans, noises from unloading, and construction’s harm to wildlife and the environment.
Tom Ahern, a partner at the Wellesley Hills, MA-based corporate public affairs firm Five Corners Strategies told the Journal that, while residents warmly welcome the Amazon van pulling into their driveway with their coveted item, “everybody wants to make sure that the warehouse from which it’s coming is one town over.”
- Amazon ditches plans for distribution warehouse in Churchill – Pittsburgh’s Action News
- Stop the building of a distribution warehouse in a residential Churchill Borough – Change.org
- Amazon withdraws plans for controversial distribution warehouse in Churchill – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
- Churchill Future files land use appeal against Hillwood’s Amazon project at former Westinghouse property – Pittsburgh Business Times
- Americans Are Pushing Back on the Warehouse Construction Boom – The Wall Street Journal
- Enfield Residents Speak Against Planned Industrial Development – Patch
- Amazon faces local opposition to warehouse in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park – The Real Deal
- Amazon seeks to build a distribution center in San Clemente – Los Angeles Times
- Are ultra-fast delivery services bad for neighborhoods? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will local opposition be a minor or major hurdle towards building the warehousing and infrastructure necessary to support e-commerce’s growth? What are the most common negative side-effects from distribution centers on communities and how can they be reduced?