Amazon wants to build a distribution center in Arvada — but the location may be less than prime.
The tech company is working with Indianapolis-based developers Scannell Properties to finalize a site plan for an Amazon facility near Indiana Street and 66th Place, adjacent to Maple Valley Park, a city-owned open-space property on the Ralston Creek Trail. The Amazon project, which has a target opening of August or September of 2022, would include an approximately 112,000-square-foot distribution center that would act as the last stop for packages before they're delivered to homes; it would also include more than 1,100 parking spaces.
Amazon first set its sights on the area because of its proximity to hot spots within the company's customer base, according to Jill Marcotte, a managing director at Scannell. The project's proponents have highlighted the center's potential to create new jobs, and an estimate of just how many is coming soon, Marcotte adds.
But some Arvada residents say that Amazon's proposal doesn't deliver, and neighbors who live near the proposed warehouse have formed Protect Maple Valley Park, a community group protesting the plans. According to PMVP, the center will bring an unsustainable amount of traffic to the area — with an estimated 531 delivery vans going out daily from the center during the holiday season. The group also worries that light and noise pollution will disturb nearby homeowners and wildlife at the park, which comes within 100 feet of the edge of the property earmarked for the facility.
"There are a lot of reasons why this isn't a great thing to put in a neighborhood. It should be on a highway, in an industrial area," says PMVP's Gina Hallisey. "We're not NIMBYs. We know that property gets developed, but we're telling them it has to be compatible. We have developers that have reached out to us, that we've contacted, that are willing to develop that property into something that's more community-minded. We want to put in small businesses, like a walkable, bike-able village-type concept."
On June 14, Arvada City Council will vote on whether part of the land needed for the project can be rezoned for light industrial use and annexed by Arvada; the parcel is currently a part of unincorporated Jefferson County. Scannell already owns part of the needed property and is under contract to purchase the remaining land, which had previously been owned by private citizens. If the council approves the annexation and zoning changes, Amazon will finish its site plan, which will then have to be approved internally by city staffers.
Before that June 14 meeting, the community group will continue to push its opposition. The volunteer-run organization has put countless hours toward that effort, holding weekly petition-signing events that have collected more than 6,500 signatures against the project; the group continues to collect them in person and online. Protect Maple Valley Park has also sent waves of emails to the city, held a presentation for Arvada planners, and raised money to commission an ecological assessment of the park by CSU.
The large amount of time and effort going into fighting the plan isn't unusual; such a battle is actually a common occurrence when Amazon is coming to town, especially when the town is like Arvada. Protect Maple Valley Park's efforts resemble other fights across the country to keep Amazon out, and several have been successful. Over the past two years, Amazon has withdrawn proposals for warehouses in Palm Beach, Florida; Braintree, Massachusetts; and Grand Island, New York, citing various reasons for its withdrawal after site plans faced heavy public opposition. A fourth Amazon proposal led to residents in Waldorf, Maryland, suing the local government last December. Like opponents to the Arvada proposal, opposition to these four sites all cited traffic concerns. Also like Arvada, all four areas are located in zip codes where the average household income is higher than the average income nationwide, as reported by Cubit Planning.
If Arvada City Council were to vote against annexation and rezoning, Amazon could keep the project alive by suing the city. The company has taken that route before: In 2019, Amazon sued Braintree after that Massachusetts town approved a future facility conditionally, attempting to require Amazon to regulate its delivery trucks. Five months later, Amazon canceled its plans for the site.
But if the Arvada vote goes in Amazon's favor, the city risks a lawsuit from Protect Maple Valley Park. Hallisey says that members have discussed the possibility of taking legal action; they believe they could sue the city because the development does not fit the zoning requirements for light industrial properties, which can have no more than fifty truck trips per day on site. Amazon has estimated it will utilize 42 line-haulers during the holiday season — which residents argue count as 84 daily truck trips.
But city staff believe the project meets Arvada's written criteria, according to Ryan Stachelski, the city's community and economic development director.
"We're in the middle but not taking sides. We are presenting the facts as we understand them, and there's still more facts the council will need to take in to ultimately make a decision," Stachelski says. "What's important for city staff is that we have a really good process that has integrity, that's fair to both the applicant and the community."
Amazon referred Westword to Scannell Properties for comment. Marcotte, the managing director with Scannell, notes that the developers have worked to follow relevant regulations and are "not proposing to disturb Maple Valley Park or make any modifications to the park."
"We are proposing to increase the buffer within our property between our development and the park. We have the required buffer on our side of the property line, and then there's additional buffering on the park side," Marcotte says. "Community outreach is really important to us, and we want to make ourselves available to answer questions. That's the reason we've hosted neighborhood meetings; we want to continue that dialogue."
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