WALLINGFORD — Neighbors applauded the Planning and Zoning Commission’s denial of a special permit application to build an Amazon distribution center and warehouse at 5 Research Parkway.
The motion made at Monday night’s meeting was to approve the plan. Three commission members voted against it — Jeff Kohan, J.P. Venoit, Steve Allinson — and two voted in favor — Jim Fitzsimmons and Chairman Jim Seichter.
It was the conclusion of a five-month long process that resulted in the applicant, Montante Construction, being denied approval to redevelop the 180-acre site, formerly a Bristol-Myers Squibb medical research facility.
The distribution center and warehouse would have been the third Amazon facility in town. Amazon operates a sortation center nearby at 29 Research Parkway, while Amazon Logistics operates a warehouse and distribution center on South Cherry Street.
Montante, a Buffalo, New York-based developer, proposed a 219,000-square-foot, 17-dock Amazon delivery station building and parking lot.
Kohan said he had concerns about the traffic and the proximity to the neighboring residential area.
The initial traffic report from the applicant was "filled with errors that our peer reviewer corrected" and "had significant omissions," he said.
"I don't think Amazon should have a monopoly on traffic in this area," Kohan said, "and very possibly prevent other businesses from being built ... Some of the residents picked up on this issue as well in some of the correspondence."
Kohan says the impact on school bus traffic is a "critical piece of information" that was not discussed.
He added that when the zoning regulations were adopted, Amazon didn’t exist. Delivery stations didn’t exist, and the regs are “not designed to handle Amazon delivery traffic.”
Jim Fitzsimmons said Montante looked at town’s zoning rules and everything they asked for is permitted.
“This is about balance, balancing the right of the landowner with the right of their neighbor,” he said. “… Anytime we have industry near or abutting a residential use, we're going to have conflict.”
The commission meets once a month. The plan has been before the PZC since April, when the commission opened the public hearing, but discussion began in May.
That discussion took three hours, after which the commission decided to continue talks in June.
During the June meeting, the hearing was again continued after more than four hours of discussion.
In July, the public hearing closed. The commission held off voting on the plan in August because not enough members attended the meeting.
The commission rejected an application in January 2019 that would have allowed warehouses covering 1 million square feet to be built at the property. The current plan is roughly 80 percent of that size.
About 15 people attended the meeting, many with signs urging a “no” vote, to hear the commission’s decision.
Chris Livingstone, 42 Valley View Drive, said that she was pleased that the neighborhood residents “came out on top.”
“As residents of the area close to the property, I personally have been praying for this since 2019, since the original application,” she said.
Sonya Wulff, 14 Oxford Trail, said she believed that if the plan went through, it would have changed the character and safety of the whole area forever.
“I think there was a knowable yet unknowable situation that was going to be happening with the traffic,” she said. “I absolutely believe they made the right decision.”