Amazon’s ‘last mile’ freight request denied again


The latest proposal to reimagine an East Eighth Street warehouse as Amazon’s potential ‘last mile’ delivery station was rejected this week by county officials, who deemed the application incomplete, citing insufficient information regarding environmental review and traffic volume.

This is the third time the county permit office, Permit Sonoma, has denied an application by Fairfield-based developer Jose McNeill to convert his property at 22810 Eighth St. E. into a cargo terminal for package delivery. retail online.

“We’re working on the (permit) process,” McNeill told the Index-Tribune this week. “It’s a use that will suit – and benefit – Sonoma County.”

McNeill bought the land in 2014 for $4 million, with plans to build what he proposed as a shipping and storage facility on the site, potentially useful for wine-related businesses. Based on this match with the property’s “rural light industrial” zoning designation, the county issued it a use permit in 2017 and it completed construction of the $32 million, $250,000 facility. square feet — dubbed “Victory Station” — in 2018.

When Amazon emerged in 2020 as a potential tenant of Victory Station, county officials initially said its use as a “last mile” fulfillment center by the online retail giant was permitted under his current license. But two neighborhood watch groups, Mobilize Sonoma and Valley of the Moon Alliance, appealed the decision, arguing that such a large-scale operation should be considered a cargo terminal, thus triggering the need for a new license to use.

Originally, Amazon’s planned warehouse and distribution operation was to accommodate 136 on-site employees, 151 delivery drivers, 40 flexible delivery drivers and 14 tractor-trailer trucks.

Norman Gilroy of Mobilize Sonoma said at the time that Amazon’s intended use was “a significant enough escalation from what was originally offered” under its “rural light industrial” license. . And in February 2021, the county board of zoning adjustments agreed, sending McNeill back to apply for a new permit.

A follow-up application was deemed incomplete by Permit Sonoma in May 2021, with the permitting agency requesting more information in a litany of areas, including lighting, irrigation, and landscaping; water and energy conservation plans; information on transport, groundwater and greenhouse gas emissions; and clarification of opening hours.

The latest request, submitted in July 2021, revised the scale of the operation, reducing the workforce to 87 on-site employees, 87 van delivery drivers, 24 flexible delivery drivers and seven tractor-trailer trucks, according to Permit Sonoma.

In a letter to McNeill on March 8, Permit Sonoma again called the application “incomplete” and requested more detailed information regarding predicted vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for all delivery vans and vehicles employees, more accurate analysis of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and additional analysis of groundwater and infiltration.

In addition, permit officials requested an update to the traffic impact study.

“Permit Sonoma and TPW (Transportation and Public Works) remain concerned that traffic associated with Amazon’s Truck Terminal Fulfillment Center may result in adverse traffic or road safety effects specific to the concentrated disbursement of vehicles from delivery throughout the area, not just State Routes 121 and 12,” wrote Blake Hillegas, project planner at Permit Sonoma.

The agency also took issue with the claimant’s failure to include the miles traveled by the 87 proposed delivery trucks in its VMT numbers.

“Plaintiff contends that delivery vehicles are not considered light trucks, but heavy trucks, which therefore should not be included in the VMT analysis per state technical guidelines,” Hillegas said in an e-mail to the Index-Tribune. .

The state code refers to VMT as “Project Attributable Automobile Travel Distance”; while its “technical advice” section defines an automobile as “road passenger vehicles, especially cars and light trucks”. The applicant therefore did not count the vehicle-kilometres traveled by its vans, which it considers to be heavy goods vehicles.

In a joint letter to Permit Sonoma dated February 27, Mobilize Sonoma and the Valley of the Moon Alliance blasted the plaintiff’s VMT analysis for excluding trips taken by its delivery vans.

“It is extremely difficult to accept this ‘vindication’ with a straight face, or to feel that Amazon and the applicant approach this license process with any degree of integrity,” Gilroy and Kathy Pons in the letter.

Both also called for a thorough environmental review of the proposal by the CEQA. “It would be difficult to conceive of a situation in which Permit Sonoma could rationally conclude that the (vehicle miles traveled) of the more than 60 fully loaded heavy-duty pickup trucks this project will send to the streets of the Sonoma Valley, seven days a week, 365 days a year, will have no environmental impact worthy of analysis under the CEQA,” write Gilroy and Pons.

According to Hillegas, the applicant must then submit an updated and comprehensive response addressing the issues identified. “Once we deem the application complete, we will need to update the project environmental review and complete the project analysis,” Hillegas said.

Once the environmental review is complete, the project will need to be referred to the Zoning Adjustment Board.

Email Jason Walsh at [email protected]


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